Are we ready to think about adding another letter to the GLBTQI label? How would GLBTQIA look... the "A" standing for "asexual?"
Asexuality is a clinical term for a condition, or orientation, in which a person has no interest in sex. An asexual is not a eunuch mentally impaired; and he or she is not unable to engage in sexual behavior. (One study has found that asexuals masturbate as often as anyone else, though to them it's more a matter of "cleaning the pipes" than getting off.) It's simply the case that asexuals are not particularly interested.
In a new documentary called "(A)Sexual", director Angela Tucker grasps a fistful of nettles and discovers just how politically charged being sexually disinterested can be. Tucker talks extensively to David Jay, a young activist and the creator of AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Jay, who has appeared on various talk shows and news programs, has a simple message: In this sex-driven culture, it should be every person's right to be the sexual being he or she is supposed to be, with no pressure to be anything else, and that should hold true for asexuals as much as for straights, gays, bis, or whoever else.
But the very idea of asexuality is so alien to most people that until very recently there was hardly any research into it, and even now there next to no research. What is known is that asexuals do exist; they are, in every respect but one, just like everybody else; and they are more numerous than you might have expected.
What is especially meaningful to GLBT audiences is how familiar Jay's words are, and how depressingly familiar some of the responses he gets (even from the gay community) sound.
"We live in a society where everyone assumes you are sexual, and if you aren't, you're broken," Jay says at one point. Or maybe they assume you are "choosing: some sort of "lifestyle" just to provoke: Jay is told by one man at San Francisco Pride, "I pity your poor soul." And no, the guy is not a religious zealot trespassing on the celebration.
The film veers into some uncomfortable places from time to time. One asexual woman, Elizabeth, gives a demonstration of a carnival side-show trick; did we really need to go there? Isn't the point that asexuals are not really freaks at all? But Elizabeth has a tender and loving relationship with a heterosexual man named Brian. He doesn't mind the lack of sex; they are so deeply in love that they marry and are content.
And that's the biggest revelation of all: asexuals can be romantic and even have a romantic orientation (some are "straight" and some are "gay"). But sex is still the currency by which relationships are measured and, one might argue, minted. Jay prefers close friendships with a wide circle of friends of both genders, but even he eventually says that he'd be willing to put sex "on the table" in order to settle into a lifelong partnership with one other person.
Ah, love -- in all its many, many forms.
Screening At The Boston LGBT Film Festival