Among LGBTQ+ activists, the letter A is often used in reference to Allies. Allies are important in the fight for equality. Generally understood as supporters outside of the LGBTQ+ community, Allies help to broaden the cause, to take it further, to stand with us against those who seek to further oppress … but we are all really Allies in some way. I, for example, as a Queer person, am an ally to all LGBTQ+ people with orientations and identities different from my own. Allies are important to what we need, and to what we are … yet I have been writing here, as Outspoken Ally, since late 2013; and have not stood for the other A’s. My silence on this is an unfortunate example of the types of exclusion and erasure that are very real problems. I am talking about people who are Asexual, Aromantic, Agender, and all variations thereof (ie: Lithromantic).
A, in this case, means ‘without.’ Without sexual attraction or desire, without romantic attraction or desire, without any specific gender to identify with. These are very real orientations and identities, and these are real people, yet they face overwhelming exclusion. The A’s are not a part of the overall majority discussion, and so they continue to have to scratch and claw their way to recognition. Why is that?
I think for most us, it’s very easy to forget that Asexual, Aromantic, and Agender people exist. Sexual and romantic attractions and desires, and gender identities and expressions, are things that we attribute to the human experience. We don’t forget out of malice or a lack of concern, but because, on some level, we think that to not have those things is to not be fully complete as a person. This isn’t conscious, so there is no blame to be placed here. It is a part of our conditioning. We forget the A’s because we forget that it is possible to be wholly human, to be complete and happy, yet not possess the attractions, desires, and gender distinctions that, quite frankly, govern popular thought. This is not entirely different from the notion that we are all inherently heterosexual, and that homosexuality is something that can be cured. It’s a line of thought that assumes a certain standard for humanity, and it’s one we need to get away from. It is time for us, as we embrace all LGBTQ+ people, to also be a welcoming safe place for the A’s.
“LGBTQ+.” That ‘+’ is very large. There are so many identities, so many orientations, so many ways in which people express themselves. That ‘+’ is like a kaleidoscope of human experience, and it’s only now beginning to be talked about openly. While these terms all slowly enter the majority discussion, and are rightly given legitimacy through understanding, let us not discount, ignore, or forget the A’s. Their struggle is just as real, their journey to self-realization just as terrifying … just as exciting, just as self-affirming, and just as important.