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Letters to an Asexual #28 (Autism, Disability, Illness, Abuse, and More!)


Hey everyone, it’s swankivy back with another
Letters to an Asexual, this is 28 I believe. Um, today I’m gonna talk about something that
is sometimes a touchy issue in our community, and I’m gonna read you the letter first and
then I’m gonna kind of expand on it to some similar concepts. So, first, here comes the
letter. This is an anonymous Ask Box request that I got from somebody on Tumblr, and here
is what they said. “I recently learned I’m on the autism spectrum, and I’m worried that
I’m upholding stereotypes about asexuality. I no longer feel comfortable IDing as asexual.
I know there’s nothing wrong with being autistic, but some people do, and some of those people
believe all asexuals are autistic. I’m not planning on telling many people, so it really
doesn’t matter, but I’m still worried I’m damaging the asexual community. Fortunately,
I’m homoromantic, so I can ID as a lesbian and not technically lie.” And um, I will read
you what I said to this person. Here’s my response: “If you don’t feel comfortable
identifying as asexual for any reason, that’s totally fine, but let me just say something
about the intersection of autism and asexuality. It’s true that autistic people are frequently
desexualized even if they don’t want to be. And it’s true that asexual people are
frequently misinterpreted as autistic even if they’re not. But there is an intersection
there of people who are both autistic and asexual, and neither one of those identity
points is making the other look bad. There is no type of asexual person or autistic person
who needs to downplay or hide aspects of themselves for the good of the community; that sort of
thing is ultimately not good for either community, because it suggests there is only one valid
way to be autistic or asexual and that you can only be either of those things if you
have absolutely no intersecting or complicating factors. Which, truly, describes no one if
we’re being honest. We all form our identities (including our sexual identities) out of everything
that is us. It would be just as wrong to say ‘well you’re just asexual because of your
autism’ as it would be to tell a non-asexual person ‘well you’re just interested in sex
because of your hormones.’ It’s pointlessly reductive and not actually a good way to describe
anyone’s holistic experience in the world. This is a similar discussion in communities
for folks with disabilities or illnesses; some who are both disabled/ill AND asexual
feel like they are going to make the community ‘look bad’ if they distract mainstream awareness
efforts by suggesting some asexual people have complicating physical factors. I think
it’s really just bullcrap. There is intersection. It is okay. We are allowed to acknowledge
that maybe an illness, a disability, any other aspect of our lives, and yeah, autism too
. . . might be affecting how we express our sexuality or feel toward others. It’s also
fine if you think about your experience of autism and your experience of asexuality and
think the two have nothing to do with each other. Some think there’s a link in themselves,
and some think there isn’t, and they’re probably both right. The asexual community
is enriched by the neurodiversity from our autistic members, not embarrassed or undermined
by it. That’s what I think, anyway. Again, if you feel like ‘asexual’ isn’t an appropriate
label for you for any reason, you’re allowed to decide that for yourself. But I really
would like you to consider that there are many asexual-spectrum autistic-spectrum people
who don’t feel either of those identities negates or dilutes the other, and it’s okay
to embrace both if that’s what you’d like to do, too. Just considering the numbers,
it makes absolute sense that some fraction of both asexual people and autistic people
would be overlapping in both categories, and I think it’s important that we remember
asexuality is a description of what we feel, not an explanation of why. As long as people
don’t go around saying all asexuality is a consequence of autism or that all autistic
people are automatically incapable of sexual relationships or sexual attraction or authentic
sexual expression, then we can certainly acknowledge and embrace the places and people wherein
these identities overlap.” So, um, I think that that response kind of sums up my perspective
on a lot of intersections that people in the asexual community may have. I did mention
disability, I did mention illness; I did not mention medications that people may take for
chronic conditions or other conditions that are established to be, like, um, libido decreasers,
and stuff like that. Um, basically I would repeat: “asexual” is what you’d wanna call
yourself as an expression of what you’re feeling, not why. And if somebody feels like, you know,
okay, there’s an interaction between the medication that I’m taking and how I feel about sex,
I’m not gonna tell that person “YOU are an inauthentic expression of asexuality because
I don’t like to accept that that’s part of who you are or who you’ve become as a person
because of your illness or because of anything that you’ve had to take for your illness.”
Um, and just, I’m gonna give you a little quick trigger warning here, is that I’m gonna
talk about abuse experiences and sexual harassment. Um, I will say that there is also this overlap
in the communities of people who have survived sexual assault and rape, who are told that
once that has happened to them, if they’re identifying as asexual, that’s never gonna
be as authentic as a person who hasn’t experienced that, and that there’s always gonna be this
“you’re only this way because this happened to you or because you had a certain experience,”
and I believe that that is NOT–that is not a dichotomy there that we wanna dig into.
There’s certainly room for people to explore their identities, for people to say “look,
I think that I underwent something traumatic and I would like to decouple those things
and figure out what my sexual identity is maybe with help from a therapist or just time
passing and authentic interaction with communities to try to figure out hey, are you feeling
this, I’m feeling this.” Um, you know, that can all help maybe work through some problems
that are caused by trauma, but there are people out there who have been through abuse experiences–sexual
abuse or non-sexual abuse experiences–that, you know, this is gonna affect who they become
and who they are, and this is going to affect how they express their sexual identity and
how they form their sexual relationships or their romantic relationships. And I don’t
think it’s fair to say that “asexual” is something you can only call yourself if you can’t possibly
“blame it” on something else. So, I just wanna say to everybody who has commented in previous
videos, “hey, I have a disability,” or “I have autism,” or “I’ve been through this terrible
experience, and I also feel like I’m asexual, is that cheating, is that okay for me to use
that?” You should use this word if you feel like it describes you. And there’s not an
asexual police–or at least there really shouldn’t be. I do recognize that there are people in
our community who might police the membership, and say, you know, “I’m gonna kick you out
of this community because I don’t feel like–I don’t feel comfortable in my asexuality if
you’re in my community,” but we really need to be an inclusive community. We need to understand
that people are working with and coming from different backgrounds, from having different
experiences–they’re coming to a similar description of their sexual identity, maybe through very
different–from different places and through different experiences. And we need to be open
to understanding that we can–we can call it the same thing without having it have formed
the exact same way in our minds or from our physical existence. We’re all going to be
affected by our physical existence. It’s not like you know when you’re a child, most children
do not report experiencing sexual attraction, and then there’s people who are elderly who
maybe they want sex less or maybe not at all compared to how they felt when they were younger.
And they’re still not going to say, you know, when I was younger I wasn’t really this way,
you know, it’s just–the way that you are at a certain point in your life is still going
to be–um, it can have a name. It can have a label. There is fluidity. There is room
for change. There is room to explore and expand, and it’s not an inauthentic thing to call
yourself “asexual” if you think you might not always be or you think that that might
not be the proper label for you in the future, or you think that there might be interaction
between the asexual identity and something else in your life. So, you know, and then
of course in the case of people who have illnesses, disabilities, hormone imbalances, autism,
um, anything non-neurotypical, you know, you may be living with these conditions or variations
your whole life and that is always going to be a part of who that person is. So there’s
no reason that “asexual” is only a label that people can use if they don’t have any of those
differences or variations from the “normative” population. So that’s my perspective on autism
and disability and a whole bunch of other complicating factors. And I really hope that
this helps some people who, like my commenter, may feel like they are an embarrassment to
the “mainstream” community if they feel like asexuality is–is part of their identity but
they don’t wanna talk about it for fear of damaging our–our, um, legitimacy, please
don’t feel like you have to hide part of who you are for the sake of the rest of us. Because
I am–I’m a community leader and I embrace you. I accept you. And I will absolutely say
that in any mainstream interview or anything anyone asks me about this subject. I will
specify that I accept and support the inclusion of people with these variations. All right,
that about wraps up everything I have to say on that subject at this time, and I hope you
guys are having a great month and I will see you next time I make a video.

32 thoughts on “Letters to an Asexual #28 (Autism, Disability, Illness, Abuse, and More!)

  1. I'm intersex and asexual, so like, sure I might (or might not) have a different biological reason not to find people attractive to most asexuals, but it doesn't mean my asexuality is invalid 🙂

  2. I think what she meant is that she worries that she is not an unassailable asexual.  I think she worries that if detractors find out that she is autistic, it will reinforce their belief that people who don't feel sexual attraction are actually just broken.

  3. Firstly, LOVE the pink streaks in you hair. They're just he cutest thing ever ^_^

    Secondly, I've said it before and I'll say it again: labels should be like hats. They should be comfy and suit you, but you should be able to take them off if you want to.

  4. I think it's a difficult topic. This week one asexual girl on my twitter told something on the lines of "I think my demisexuality was caused by this traumatic experience with my ex-boyfriend that coerced me to have sex. Well, actually they say asexuality is related to psychological problems, so that makes sense." What I got from this is that all her life she was non-asexual, she felt sexual attraction and because of a trauma she stopped feeling it. I think instead of identifying as asexual she should see a therapist, because it's not natural for her being asexual.

    Of course she can come to the community and try to find herself, but this thought of "I became asexual" is so weird as someone saying "I became homosexual". 

    When my brother was 7 y/o was raped, then he grew up being homosexual. Was he born homosexual, did he became still as a child because of the abuse or was it an association of everything? I don't know, but it wouldn't change the fact that he was homosexual. So to me, not only not feeling sexual attraction is the important point, but also asexual's own experiences since they were children. I don't believe in a person becoming asexual while during their whole life they've felt sexual attraction.

    And I just hope people stop believeing this, maybe when they stop it I will be safe to tell a psychologist that I'm asexual without them trying to pinpoint what made me "become" an asexual or trying telling me that I'm wrong.

  5. I'm an asexual with a lot of complicating factors as you put it. I'm chubby, autistic, and have had some traumatic past experiences to do with sexuality. I think it's important for people like me to be in the community. It may seem like we might damage more "mainstream" asexual movements, but at the same time, I have the feeling that we also help other people who are the same as us to understand that just like it's not wrong for "mainstream" asexuals to be aseuxal, it's not wrong for us either even if we do have complicating factors or maybe even reasons. Thank you so much for this video. I always love watching them.

  6. Bless your soul~~~ You are so open minded and educated and mature, it's hard to find people like this these days…

  7. I want to thank you for making an effort to use language that did not insist on the word autism for all persons on the autistic spectrum.

    I know it's a tired point, but many of us diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome resent the latest diagnostic revision.

  8. I'm not asexual, but I 'do' have aspergers.

    It sounds like the person you received the letter from has has someone say "You're asexual because you have aspergers".

    It's a non-sequiter…. I have aspergers, but I'm not asexual… so the link is non existent

    They might as well say "You're asexual because you're a red head", or 'tall', or other meaningless aspect.

    By the way @swankivy , I also like the pink hair…. it's really sweet!

  9. I sometimes try to explain it this way: I'm in my early 20s, and recently diagnosed with a mild ADHD. I was also born 5 weeks premature. Preterm births are correlated (probably causally) with adhd, but that doesn't make my adhd less authentic, or more authentic for having a "cause."
    Is asexuality correlated with prematurity? Who knows? Who cares? Even if there were a direct causal correlation, there's no way to change the fact that I'm ace, and was born premature. Stop worrying about the "why" (for other people. You can obsess all you want about your own "why"), and focus on the "what now?".

  10. Thanks for yet another excellent video!
    I quite like what you also say about Autism, etc. – excellent points, and you and you present them incredibly well.
    I too quite like your comment about desexualized – hadn't really thought about that one, but makes a lot of sense – yes, again, another excellent point!
    I wish a whole lot more folks were as rational and reasonable about these things as you are!
    And of course you're fun too!  🙂

  11. Links have been found between Asexuality and those with Aspergers, in that a slightly higher proportion of aspergers people are asexual.  But its not guaranteed. Many aces aren't autistic, many autistic people do seek sexual relationships.

  12. This is always a sensitive issue, you handled it well. Way to go!

    I've met plenty of autistic spectrum and physically disabled people who certainly were not asexual. Likewise, asexuals who aren't autistic. Then there's people who're both – to those folks, never be afraid to use a label if you feel it will help you. Don't be bullied into not using it by an ignorant few who want to debunk us 🙂

  13. You shouldn't feel bad about being autistic+ace; I know a girl from college who is hetero for sure (she wrote some presumably explicit poetry which I've not seen).

    actually i've been WRONGLY diagnosed with aspergers (it was a mix of clinical depression and high intelligence) and when I found out she was interested in sex I was confused because I thought my disinterest was an aspergers thing, but i'm not aspergers but I am asexual, so…yeah. Peace

    edit: i'm not "disinterested" in sex, i like dirty jokes and i'm curious about sex and sexuality, i think it's great, i'm just not sexually attracted to anyone.

    and the girl i talked about gave someone that "you might meet the right person" speech when he was adamant that he did not want a girlfriend (i don't know his orientation),this actually has nothing to do with her sexuality, (that's about romantic orientation, not sexual orientation)

  14. Thanks for the inclusion of people who might not consider themselves as included in the group. Keep up the work for understanding of a little known sexual orientation.

  15. Hi! I just finished watching all of letters to an asexual, and I'm inspired by your ability to argue effectively and with patience and endurance.

  16. the gift asperger's give s a person at abstract thinking and seperating feelings from each other and drawing distinctions for detail  I think perhaps though is an asset for realizing one's identity as asexual. Our brains have a tendency to notice feelings and distincitons that other's don't pick up on in our experience. The asexual community has continously crafted language to express itself that for better or worse ends up being terminology At some point i end up stuck appropiating because it's the only "Accurate" way to express my own sexual identity or frustrations. It wouldn't  just otherwise spontaneously occur to me HOW for instance to explain that I've found myself in space's where i've been in a state of Aesthetic attraction but not aroused to someone and various things of that nature.I consider my Demisexual because there's nothing really stopping me from getting aroused but if there's NO emotional connection sexual attraction  alone really just isn't enough to stir me to the point where Sex is a real actual possibility..

    because just thinking somebody is "Cute" or such isn't really going to do it.

  17. I was recently diagnosed with Asperger's, and while I can't be sure if it's at all related to my aromanticism, I've come to the conclusion that it's irrelevant.
    Humans brains are about the most complex thing science has come across, and we still have tons to learn about neurology, especially concerning orientations. 

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't think mental differences should invalidate orientation. Maybe there's a link; maybe there's not. Either way, it should be up to the individual to decide for themselves if they want to call themselves asexual or not.

    Thanks again for all your work, Swankivy.

  18. I got diagnosed with ASD last year, and I have struggled a bit with how these different parts of me collide, and been afraid of one invalidating the other. Even though I feel as both labels are equally important to me, and I feel pride about both; the stereotype that they are connected has bothered me a lot. So hearing this from you was encouraging and reaffirming, thank you. Our community is lucky to have you 🙂

  19. I am autistic and asexual and I don't say anything about either to anyone I don't feel completely comfortable with. BTW I love your Steven Universe shirt

  20. Hey swankivy, I am both asexual (panromantic) and on the autism spectrum (aspergers) and I thank you very much for making this video because it can be annoying for the ignorant to make those assumptions that one is ace because they're autistic or vice versa. One thing I did not agree with your video on is when you mentioned people identifying as ace who are on medications that decrease their libido. If anything is giving misinformation about ace community, I think that would further distract people from truly understanding what asexuality is. To me, it's something that you are born as a part of you, you don't just "decide it" just like a homosexual person doesnt "just decide" they are gay. I don't think a person on meds that decrease sexual libido should be going around calling themselves asexual because they're not feeling like they want sex because of their meds when if they were OFF those meds, they would NOT be calling themselves asexual. That is also like a person who for whatever reason chooses celibacy call themselves asexual and some people would blindly accept it and associate asexuality with celibacy when they are totally NOT the same thing just like i'd hate for people to think that meds can make someone asexual or someone doesn't like sex because they've been abused so that makes them asexual. To me, it's annoying when I tell people my asexuality and one of the first things they ask is "is there a reason? Were you abused" ……Someone can be abused and with the proper therapy and time (time heals all), still want sexual relationships. That does not make them asexual….Someone can also be abused and traumatized to never desire sex again, but that does not make them asexual because if they were not abused, they would want sex. Not wanting sex because of abuse would be a choice of celibacy. I hope I got my point across okay. I'm not the best with words. !! But again, i respect you and glad we have such a great public speaker making these awareness vids. Thank you.

  21. Huh, I'm autistic and am a semisexual. My favourite person on Earth is an autistic asexual and she's friends with an asexual but our romantic orientations and religions are all different and we have different hair colours too. Asexuals seem as diverse as autistic people or maybe more so.

  22. I'm in the same situation! Asexual-autisic struggles, no one will take you seriously too! BTW love the Steven Universe shirt

  23. +swankivy Time 1:10 Nailed the situation. 😉 True, Spectrumites and Aces have a sizable intersection set, but also sizable sets of one and not the other. I may be a Spectrumite, but I'm a frustrated romantic who only landed two dates (as of June 2016), both while I was still in Lafayette, CA, USA; none in East Contra Costa, CA, USA.

  24. You're so sensitive to everybody's needs , feelings, and point-of-view in the "community". But like a standard Liberal Socialist you'll have me hounded out of society or imprisoned if I don't agree with you.

  25. Years of struggling with other people overlapping my poor eyesight with my lack of attraction had pulled me into trying hard to be straight.
    I dated, didn't like it and I am glad I stopped way before "going to bed" with that guy. I did not feel that way, I did not find him attractive, I don't find most men not even aesthetically pleasing not even famous people. I tested myself, searched for all those "hot famous guys" pictures, nope, I don't have a crush on any actor/athlete/musician/etc. And it has nothing to do with being legally blind.
    I am so proud to finally be able to shut up those people who entangled 2 of my minority identities for so long. You have no idea how liberating this is.
    Thank you for sharing your videos.

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