My name is Courtney Lane, and I am a Disabled, Asexual woman.
You may know me as one half of The Ace Couple podcast, an accessibility committee volunteer and panel facilitator from the International Asexuality Conference, or even through my company Never Forgotten where I work as a Victorian Hair Artist and Historian. Here, however, I am writing as the founder of the brand new (but highly necessary) Disabled Ace Day.
Within the Asexuality community, Disabled Aspecs have been overlooked and erased at best and outright discriminated against at worst for far too long. Disability and Asexuality can be a very complicated intersection to exist in and we need to talk about it. That is why I am proposing that we dedicate Wednesday during Ace Week each year as #DisabledAceDay.
Disabled Ace Day is a day to celebrate Disabled Aspecs and draw attention to the challenges and discriminations we face within the broader Ace community. Ace Week 2021 is taking place October 24th-30th, so our first inaugural Disabled Ace Day is officially October, Wednesday 27th 2021.
An enormous amount of disability activism revolves around fighting to be seen as a sexual being. Disabled people are often desexualized and infantilized, so there IS a real need for this discussion. However, the activism posed in opposition to this systemic issue is course-corrected way too far in the opposite direction to the point where ace-exclusionary language becomes the norm within this discourse.
Harmful, blanket statements such as, “Yes, ALL disabled people have and enjoy sex, because we’re human just like you…” becomes common. Having or wanting sex should never be a qualifier for one’s own humanity, yet this type of acephobia is rampant in the disability community, and unfortunately, the Asexual community is no friendlier to the Disabled community.
Considering the fact that we have a lesser-known sexuality, often deemed the “invisible orientation”, Aspecs often feel the need to defend their Aceness with pre-emptive qualifiers such as “There’s nothing wrong with us. We don’t have a phycological disorder, and we’re not broken or disabled”, but this puts those of us you are both Disabled and Asexual in a very messy spot.
How do you share your lived-experience openly and proudly if the very fact that your existence as both a Disabled person and an Asexual person are seemingly at odds with one another?
There is a reason why the vocal members of these two communities use this language. As with all marginalized communities, there is a long history of discrimination that they are specifically pushing back on when they say such things. Asexuality as an orientation has a deep culture of medicalization and pathologization leading to a variety of medical abuses including conversion therapies. Disability, on the other hand, has a long track record of eugenics including dehumanizing Disbaled folks through forced sterilization.
Naturally, both groups are going to fight for change, but there are ways to do it without throwing each other under the bus. At the end of the day, we’re all fighting to have our experiences seen and valued. The only reason these qualifiers exist is to make ourselves seem more palatable to outsiders, but it does real, tangible harm to members of the community who live at these intersections.
Although I’ve been Disabled from birth with fluctuating and complicated symptoms, and although I have been an out and proud Asexual for a decade, I have experienced repeated attempts at silencing from the Asexual community. I’ve been told that I’m a bad activist who should not be speaking about my experience because I will give Allos the “wrong” idea. I’ve been told that I should not speak about disability issues, because as an Ace, I somehow delegitimize all of the sex-based strides that are being made in disability activism.
There have been times when the harassment from my own communities has been so strong that I wanted to pack it in and decide that discussing these issues wasn’t worth it at all. As a result, I’ve almost quit speaking about my own experiences pertaining to Asexuality and Disability more times than I can count.
But I’ve come to realize that silencing myself is the opposite of what needs to happen. Rather than keep quiet and allow there to be fewer voices in the conversion, I need to get louder, not only with my own voice, but in raising up the voices of fellow Disabled Aspecs who have a diversity of experiences.
Please join me in getting loud. Please speak up with us and amplify our voices. To usher in our first Disabled Ace Day, I’ve spoken to well over a dozen Disabled Aspecs for an interview series which can all be read here on the Ace Week website. Please read them and share them. If you, yourself, are a Disabled Ace, join our shared conversation, and always remember that humanity is not a finite source. Someone else having an experience that differs from yours does not invalidate your identity, and learning about and amplifying the experiences of marginalized folks with diverse, intersectional identities is always worth it.