Why the A in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for ‘ally’

Alex Soule

It seems to be a common misconception, that the A stands for ally, all you need to do is ask half (sometimes more) of the population what the A stands for in the acronym and they’ll say ally. That’s not even merely straight people and allies either; people within the queer community seem to think so as well; if they remember the A exists at all (it gets left out more often than not). Sadder still is when the misconception is corrected to point out that the A does not stand for ally but rather asexual since many seem to either believe that:
A. Asexuality doesn’t exist
B. Is just another word for celibacy
C. Asexuality is just a phase/mental instability
D. Asexuals aren’t queer enough to be counted under the LGBT umbrella, or
E. That we somehow reproduce asexually like an amoeba or a giant mutated lizard out to destroy Manhattan.
These aren’t just words from heterosexual people either as I’ve pointed out, many queer people have the same point of view.

And this is exactly why the A needs to stand for asexual. Because with this outlook asexuals fall between the cracks, not ‘normal’ enough to be straight (especially since many asexuals have queer related romantic and even sexual orientations on top of just asexual, and even those who identify as heteroromantic deserve to be considered queer due to the whole sexual minority thing) but not ‘queer’ enough to be queer. An asexual person shouldn’t need to explain why they are queer any more than a bisexual person should. Yet we still receive a lot of denial of our existence, and receive a fair amount of acephobic behaviour towards us typically by people who don’t understand what asexuality is. The acephobia triggered by ignorance is at least fixable even if it gets tedious trying to explain that Godzilla is not a good example of an asexual.

First thing to understand is that asexual is an umbrella term in itself for anyone who doesn’t experience (or rarely experiences) sexual attraction (exact opposite of a pansexual, they experience sexual attraction to all genders, we experience it towards none). Under the umbrella you have various forms of sexual and romantic identities. Pretty much under the sexual identities you have:
Asexuals who don’t experience sexual attraction to any gender/sex but may (or may not) feel a romantic attraction towards a gender/sex.
Demisexuals who will only feel sexual attraction when a close emotional bond is formed (which of course may be coupled with any of the other sexualities)
Grey asexuals who rarely feel a sexual attraction towards anyone (more so than an asexual but not as specifically as a demisexual)
These are then paired with various romantic identities (which may also be a-, demi- or grey-, just replace sexual with romantic in the above descriptions) which typically describe the gender/sex a person is attracted to (aka someone can be asexual but homoromantic and attracted romantically to a person of the same gender/sex) or in the case of someone who is aromantic they will have no interest in a romantic relationship but rather a platonic one (yes, this is possible).

Secondly we are not celibate. Celibacy is a choice to refrain from sex for cultural, religious or personal reasons whereas asexuality is not a choice, merely a lack of attraction all together. Nor is it just a phase or mentally unstable, no more so than someone who is homosexual, bisexual or transsexual. If someone were to view the other sexualities in this light there would be hell to pay so why isn’t the same privilege extended to us? Why is it that asexuality is considered a flaw within the queer community when homosexuality (for instance) isn’t? We were born this way just like everyone else.

Thirdly, what is queer enough if we don’t fit under the umbrella of queer? Last I checked queer was a supportive community there for anyone who had a sexuality other than heterosexual (which just makes the idea of the A standing for ally even weirder since that most definitely is not a sexuality) yet people who identify as asexual are denied that support/forgotten about. We deserve to feel welcome as well considering the asexual community is rather small and scattered; we too are a sexual minority. We deserve to know that there are people who will give us support as we try to figure out where we sit in the sexuality spectrum. We deserve to actually feel human rather than be treated as though something is wrong with us or just ignored.

Because maybe if the A was included more we could actually figure it out sooner and we wouldn’t feel as though we were broken as we try to understand why we feel so different to those around us sex and romance-wise. Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone if we actually knew earlier that what we were was normal.
Because that’s how it felt, growing up and not experiencing sexual attraction while everyone else hit puberty and did, feeling romantic attractions but being confused because the sexual attraction wasn’t there.

So what the hell was I? I didn’t know what I was. Straight? Bisexual? Lesbian? Confused? Just broken?
I didn’t know, because that A was almost never spoken of. And if it was, it stood for ‘ally’.