This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shambhavi Saxena. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The FAQueer Series: 10 Things I’m Asked Because I’m ASEXUAL

More from Shambhavi Saxena

One of the upsides to being a queer person is feeling like the unique confetti-coloured snowflake that you think you are. One of the downsides is constantly having to eke out a space for yourself because you’re the furthest thing from ‘default mode’ on universal settings. You tend to see yourself in terms of opposition to ‘the normal’, and a huge part of this othering process comes in the form of even innocuous-sounding questions. As an asexual person, that is a person who does not experience sexual attraction, I’ve heard these questions come from both straight and queer people who can’t fathom life without sex.

Is this a medical condition?

No, it’s a perfectly normal sexual orientation that needs neither medical attention nor treatment. You must be confusing asexuality with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, where a person’s lack of interest in sex can cause them physical and psychological distress. I can assure you, aces are not distressed by anything except people’s reluctance to understand what we’re about.

Don’t you know what you’re missing out on?

Missing out on what? Relationships? Gratification of the senses? Climax? Well, how about I put it this way – does a fish need a bicycle? You can only “miss out” on things that you take an active interest in or are in some way entitled to. As an asexual, I neither desire sexual intercourse with anyone, nor am I shredding up some sort of sex fantasy hall-pass that everyone apparently shot out of the womb with. I’m just living my life, what’s biting you?

Shouldn’t you have sex first before you decide?

You make it sound like I’m a child fussing at dinner. I’m not. I’m somebody who knows what my body wants. Many queer people get asked about the veracity of their identity. It’s a directive from the heteropatriarchy saying “you gotta do it our way first, or it’s not legit.” And that can be very upsetting, because it takes your body’s autonomy away from you.

Aren’t all virgins asexual, though?

Nooooo! Your sexual orientation and the mythical use-by-date of your junk have no bearing on each other. Asexuality is not something you can shed with a one night stand! ‘Asexual’ doesn’t denote a person who is yet to have sex. It doesn’t denote a person who is celibate either. Can virgins be sexually attracted? Yes! You can absolutely have desirous, lustful virgins who experience sexual attraction, as well as asexuals who have had sex. Say whaaaat? But it’s true! Also, virginity is a very relative and, let’s face it, problematic concept in itself. The point I’m trying to make is your sexuality and your virginity are not indicative of each other.

Did somebody hurt you?

Destroy the idea that any type of non-heterosexual orientation is the outcome of some horrible sexual trauma. Bad boyfriends don’t turn straight girls into lesbians. And bad relationships don’t turn people into asexuals. Asexuality is not something that can be done to you, it’s just who you are, and if you are a person who does not want to have sex, it doesn’t mean you’re obsessing over a bad past experience.

No, but what could be better than sex?

We like to think cake is. But for us, literally ANYTHING is better than sex. We can’t seem to understand the centrality given to sex in so many people’s lives. Obviously there is more to life than jumping into the sack with somebody. Sure, sex must be really great for some people, and we can respect that, but our business is elsewhere and believe it or not, we actually like the arrangement!

Do Asexuals only have sex with Asexuals?

I can see why someone would make this mistake. Really. I do. Homosexuals have sex with homosexuals. Heterosexuals have sex with heterosexuals. But it’s logic gone astray, we have to call it back and calm it down with some milk and cookies. Asexuals have sex with – here it comes – nobody! That’s kind of why the word is a-sexual, meaning without sexual desire.

So, this means you won’t get married?

Let’s be realistic. Sexual intercourse ends in marriage only in some very select situations (mostly those monitored by religio-cultural codes). Marriage, for all the paper hearts and diamonds and symbolic ceremonies, has more to do with social security than anything else. Sure, sexual intercourse may be a huge part of some people’s marriages, but let’s not presuppose a mandatory link between sexuality and marriage. Whether I decided to marry or not has nothing to do with how much sex I’m having. If that was the case, we wouldn’t still be fighting for same-sex marriage, now would we? Let’s not forget that many heterosexual people remain unmarried, and it speaks nothing of their sex lives.

But surely you’ll want children, right? If humans don’t reproduce won’t the species die out?

No problem, I can just split down the middle like an amoeba. Kidding. Like the social contract of marriage, the biological process of reproduction and asexuality are not interdependent. Yes ‘traditional’ baby making requires sexual intercourse. Some asexuals may choose to use the sex organs they possess, but this doesn’t mean their sexual orientation has changed. Also it’s the 21st century – have you heard of surrogacy and adoption? Your concerns about the endurance of our species assumes the entire world is comprised of homosexual or asexual people, which, as we know and despair, is not the case. I assure you the species is in no danger of dying because 1% of the population is not having sex. We’re probably going to die out from climate change and poor healthcare, though, I’d be more concerned about that if I were you.

You’ll change your mind.

This isn’t a question. It’s a statement. It’s almost always accompanied by a knowing smirk, that says, “I’ve gone my entire life without ever once challenging the way I’ve been told things should be.” It’s a statement that means someone else thinks they know you better than you know yourself. It’s a statement that strips you of your individuality, of your choice, of your comfort. It’s a statement that really means, “we’ll change it for you”.

I can’t speak for all asexual people, since there are varied orientations even within that broader category. But I know responding to these questions is almost a part-time job for many asexuals. Good thing we’ve devised some ways to not go up in flames at regular intervals. Other times, it takes a lot of cake to recover.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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