As you might assume from my content on this site, I carry a lot of labels. Some are less well-known than others, and some carry inaccurate connotations. Some I am constantly working for greater awareness of, and others I keep quieter about. These labels have been immensely helpful for me, whether they are as specific as a microlabel on the spectrum of aromantic and asexual identity or as broad as the unifying and nebulous umbrella terms that I’m not sure where all I fit within.
Naming is important to self-concept and acceptance of our identity, but there are equally important stages that we move through before and after we first say, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m ____.” These aren’t strictly linear, but they are numbered for the sake of organization:
This is a silly little poem about Twitter, but I really do hope we can recapture the joy and belonging and welcome this Ace Awareness Week in the midst of all the creepy, scary, and ghoulish opinions on the internet. Hope you find all treats and no tricks this year!
Recently, I was asked about ace and allo marriages, and I didn’t have any resources about marriage/partnership and asexuality, especially when one of those partners is allo. In fact, there really aren’t many resources like this out there in general. I’ve never been in a partnership like this as an adult, so I don’t have any experience in this area to draw from. However, aces and their allo partners on Twitter were eager to help and share what they have learned. We all hope these stories and links can strengthen ace/allo marriages and long-term committed partnerships of all kinds.
Many mentioned setting boundaries, trying nontraditional things that work for you (separate beds or bedrooms, for example), honest communication, being willing to compromise when you can but be honest when you can’t, and learning more about various ace labels and experiences to have clearer language to communicate your needs and desires. While therapy in general is a good fit for this kind of relationship issue, many therapists are not ace-informed, especially marriage and relationship therapists, so be careful going in to choose someone who understands your situation and won’t pressure you into sex or relationship structures that don’t work for you. For example, some ace/allo partners found polyamory was a good fit and enjoy multiple relationships, but others didn’t and resented how it was assumed or presented as the “solution” to fix their relationship. Some of these answers may work for you and some won’t. They are not blanket solutions, simply lived experiences of those in these partnerships.
Here’s more of what aces and allos in relationships with aces had to say:
I’m primarily focusing my work on progressive Christianity and the queer church because that’s where I’m most needed and fit best, but others have blazed a trail before I got here and I’m not alone now.
I am also celibate. I consider this a calling in the sense that God made me sex-averse intentionally and for a reason.
Not all asexual people are sex-averse.
My understanding of this vocation is different from those who typically get the microphone in regards to celibacy, talking about a traditional understanding of what gay people must do with their sexuality to be “orthodox.”
I’m Side A. How does this work?
Celibacy should be for those who are personally called to it. It should not be in any way related to your orientation. Straight, bi, pan, queer, ace, gay, whatever… you can be called to celibacy.
Important: This also has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s you and only you.
Side A theology doesn’t reserve any specific restrictions on any orientation. We are all one in Christ Jesus and each individual part of Christ’s body has its own calling. This is why I’m all over the podcast land as a celibate ace telling you to create your own sexual ethic.
Can you be Side A and celibate? YES. There is no sexual liberation without the choice not to have it. Side A doesn’t mean you personally feel called to have sex. It means the Bible is fully affirming of queer relationships and identities including the choice to have sex. Or not!
If anyone tells you you have to be Side B if you’re called to celibacy, here is your sign that that’s a lie. It’s about belief and biblical interpretation. Not behavior.
Stuff like this is why the church needs asexual leadership. We have the vocabulary for this. We need more Christian aces affirmed and heard. We need the church to understand the difference between attraction, behavior, desire, and vocation. Aces can lead. We’re worthy and called.
Remember: We aren’t new. Just erased. Just today I ran across a blog on a queer Christian website acknowledging asexuality as a queer orientation. It was written 21 years ago. We’ve been here. You just haven’t been listening or haven’t had the opportunity because of gatekeeping.
We’re in your churches. We may not know the label (though that’s changing as awareness grows), but we’re there. We might be partnered. But some of us are happily single, and we might be celibate and/or sex-averse. And we have words to describe that array of sexuality and desire.
Give aces a voice and you’ll discover so many keys to this beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom. We can help those called to celibacy and unite in our common goals. We can support singles who need help accepting their vocation to singleness.
We also face queerphobia, often recycled arguments used against bi or pan or gay and lesbian people are used against us, right here on this website every damn day and in churches and elsewhere.
Asexuality is so difficult to see because it is not only against traditional understandings of sexuality (heteronormativity) but also against the assumptions that we can sub in different genders into that traditional understanding (all have sexual attraction = allonormativity).
Asexuality is compatible with the Bible (and so is celibacy) but runs counter to “traditional Christian teaching” that emphasizes being created for heterosexual marriage, aka a lifelong sexual relationship, implying that God gives everyone attraction. So while asexuality and celibacy aren’t the same, we do have shared history.
Theology that only says same-sex marriage is ok without seeing vocational singleness and/or celibacy as holy too is missing it just as much as those who demand celibacy is the only “orthodox” answer for queerness. Both are missing the parallel diversity the ace community provides.
(Meaning that for centuries, asexuality has had to work out whether it is only for those not interested in the acts of sex, behavior, or for anyone without attraction, regardless of behavior. We landed on the latter in recent years. More on this elsewhere.)
So do I need Side A theology for my “pet sins”? Am I just capitulating to the culture to sleep with whoever I want? Am I Side A because celibacy is too hard? Am I going along with sexual trends of “the world”? Nope. I’m ace, single, and celibate. But I’m Side A because I’ve seen the good fruit when everyone is allowed to live out their own unique, God-given identities and vocations and behavior. Asexuality is a form of queerness that reveals anything is possible when we discard the narrow roles normativity would place on us.
So don’t devalue my calling by claiming it’s tied to orientation. Don’t perpetuate myths about asexuals by claiming it’s just “not having sex” or the same as celibacy. That’s not it. But aces and celibate people do have a lot of overlap and goals in common. It’s time to work together, fully affirming each other’s callings.
Asexuality is an orientation to describe not experiencing sexual attraction. Aromanticism is an orientation to describe not experiencing romantic attraction. Most people think of their attraction as both romantic and sexual, but these are not always aligned. Anyone can experience split attraction, so someone might be any combination of homoromantic, homosexual, biromantic, bisexual, queer, panromantic, pansexual, aromantic, asexual, or other orientations. These are also separate from gender identity.