Past the look: What is demisexuality?

love-560783_1280One thing that has bothered me for a while when it comes to LGBT+ spaces is that they are primarily focused on bars and clubs: spaces revolving around alcohol and casual sex. For me, as someone who doesn’t drink, they are only places I would go if I was with a larger group of queer friends. Outside of that however, it is rare that I come across somewhere that is both queer and casual that I would like to spend my weekends.

I have recently been doing some research on the asexual (ace) and aromantic (aro) communities that are included within the LGBT+ umbrella but are very often ignored. One main difficulty the ace community faces is people rebranding the “A” in LGBTQIA as being for allies and not asexuals. This erases them even further as they are replaced by non-queer representation, which is exactly, not, the point.

The problem with LGBT+ spaces being hypersexualised means that queer ace people could feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in queer spaces due to the heavy focus on indulging in casual sexual behaviour, which is totally fine and awesome if you are into that sort of thing, but if you aren’t it leaves you in the cold as to where to find queer spaces and likeminded queer individuals. This oversexualisation of queerness and queer spaces also means that asexuals get forgotten and are sometimes not seen as being “queer enough” to be part of the community. Which is something that to bisexuals sounds strangely familiar…

From a personal point of view I never really felt comfortable with the queer environments that are situated in clubs and recently I have been able to identify that feeling and give it a name: Demisexual. This means that I don’t feel a sexual connection or the desire to have sexual contact with someone until I have an emotional connection with them. There are a lot of identities on the aro and ace spectrum that could be helpful to many people in identifying feelings and behaviour and being able to talk to other people who identify the same.

There are a number of other reasons why people might not be comfortable being in those environments. For example they aren’t exactly an intersectional spread of the queer community. Mainstream LGBT clubs are mainly places for athletic, white, cis, homosexual men to meet others of the same, and even the women only spaces, of which there are very few and far between, seem to discriminate against femmes and people they don’t deem to be “gay” enough. As an extremely femme bi woman (who has been turned away from such places before) I can’t see them as safe spaces to spend my Saturday nights.

There are alternative queer spaces growing, mainly in East London, that allow for open gender expression, body positivity and poly groups, however the nights I have attended have still ended up being incredibly focused on sexual behaviour. As someone who enjoys attending fetish nights and spending time in the dark basements of London’s goth scene I’m not someone who is uncomfortable with that sort of event. What is disappointing, however, is that it seems to be the only focus in the queer community and the only way in which a large group of LGBT+ people are creating queer spaces. And this simply doesn’t include all of us.

I think there is room and a call for queer spaces that fall outside of bar and club experiences. If, as a movement, we are looking to be more public and normalise queer behaviour shouldn’t we be extending outside of our dark rooms? We should be creating queer safe spaces in cafes, restaurants, gyms, sports teams, and other places that queer people might not feel they can be open and out with their identities. People who are part of the ace and aro communities should have spaces of their own and feel that that the queer community is more involving and sympathetic to their cause. And in turn we as bisexuals should be involving biromantic asexual, aromantic bisexual, demisexuals, graysexuals and all people on the aro and ace bisexual spectrum in our community and discussions. As a community which is sexualised for the profit of others we have an interest in desexualising queer spaces to let others in.

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Alice Ryder

Alice is a bisexual activist, blogger and gender warrior. She recently finished her Masters in Gender so splits her time between the fetish goth scene (she means finding a job) and volunteering for the National Domestic Violence Helpline. You can follow her on Tumblr (link- and Instagram (link-aliceryder)

3 Responses to Past the look: What is demisexuality?

  • Very well done. We need more of this to help people understand the world is and never has been black and white. Thank you.

  • Alice says:

    Awesome article.

    The most difficult thing I find about being demi / grey-A in sexualised spaces is that I’m conscious in every conversation I have that I might be wasting someone’s time if they’re looking to pull. I feel so guilty about it that I’ve almost completely removed myself from the LGBT+ scene entirely at several points. Ironically, I’m aware that I only feel guilty about it because I’m attracted to other people so rarely that I place a huge value on every individual attraction, whereas for most people an initial attraction is just one biscuit in the biscuit jar.

    Demisexuality can make bisexuality all the more invisible too, I think. For example, if you fall more easily into friendships with one sex than the other (for me that’s men) you tend to end up dating that sex almost exclusively, even though you might know that that’s purely the result of a technicality.

  • Since I first learned of the queer letter nomenclature sometime back in 2000, I’ve included A as meaning both asexual and ally. Was I not supposed to? I think the gay youth magazine – XY – that I used to sneak off and read, also included both. It was an awesome publication!

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