Are Asexual People Queer?

I’m a big advocate for using the words you want in order to identify and describe yourself. Nobody knows you better than you do. But I’m also a big fan of knowing the history of your words.

The word queer has been around since old timey white dudes used it to describe something odd, strange, or peculiar. And then it changed, as languages do. It became pejorative, derogatory. Calling someone queer was akin to calling them a fg or dke. It was inextricably linked to sexuality, specifically LGBT people. And it was offensive. It was lobbed in conversation and arguments with vitriol. And then it changed, as languages do.

People started reclaiming the word queer, using it to describe many different sexualities and identities. Many people, gay, lesbian, bi, pan people started using the word queer. Queer is not bad. And then last week, I heard a cis gender heteroromantic asexual person refer to themselves as queer.

And I stopped.

And I thought.

I didn’t know why it didn’t sit well with me, so I talked to my local ace friend Mary. As always, she had thoughts, and Discourse ensued.

What sucks is that the term “cishet”– a shortened term for cis gendered heterosexual people– is automatically assumed to be heterosexual, not heteroromantic, because being sexual is “the norm”. It’s absolutely possible to be cishet AND ace, since you can be heteroromantic. Just like you can be bisexual and homoromantic (sexually attracted to two genders and romantically attracted to your same gender) or any other kind of combination.

Ace people absolutely should be included in the LGBTQIA community. The cishet community has not embraced the ace and aromantic community, and we deserve a place. The term queer is largely an umbrella term, meant to encapsulate many different sexualities and identities. But cishet ace people calling themselves queer seems out of place. Even Oxford recognizes this, saying that queer is “denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms.

And here’s the thing, I’m not trying to police how people talk about themselves. I’m trying to bring light to the fact that the word queer is not for everyone. There are many folks in the LGBTQIA community who don’t use the word queer, who don’t want other people to use it to identify them without their consent specifically because it’s such a loaded word.

“Without going into an entire dissertation about queer and its current usage, it feels disrespectful to other communities for cis heteroromantic aces to claim that label.” -@extraordimary

There’s a lot of history with that word. The point of using the word queer to describe oneself is to differentiate oneself from heterosexual norms. From cis gendered norms. And if you’re a cis person who’s heteroromantic, you have such passing privilege that it seems almost appropriative to use the word queer.

Mary had a good point: “While there IS such a thing as corrective rape for ace folks, and there IS definitely a stigma against folks who choose to not engage in relationships and/or sex… it’s still not the same as homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia.”

That’s the problem with being asexual, especially asexual and heteroromantic. You absolutely have a spot in the LGBTQIA community, but you likely haven’t experienced the same discrimination that other folks have. You can hold hands with your partner in public without getting harassed. You’re not misgendered constantly, or at all. You’re not dysphoric, or told that your gender is invalid. The chances that your family has disowned you because of your gender or sexuality is likely very low.

I’m biromantic and asexual, but I still feel uncomfortable using the word queer to describe myself. I date mostly men, and now I’m in a heterosexual-appearing relationship. I’m a white, middle class, cis woman. I have a lot of privilege working for me. The word doesn’t feel appropriate for me.

Again, the point of this post isn’t to tell people “HEY you can’t use that word!!!!!!!”. It’s to remind people that words aren’t just words, they’re full of historical and societal implications. They mean different things to different communities, and context is everything.

So, are ace people queer? If you think that word applies to you, then yes, absolutely. But if you’ve thought about the context and the historical baggage that comes with that word, and have decided that it’s not your place to claim the word queer as part of your identity, that’s okay too.

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