LGBT+ month began on WednesdayLucas Chebib

‘LGBT’ is often used as a complete term to refer to those with marginalised sexual, romantic and gender identities, but this abbreviation is not representative of all the minorities who deviate from the cisgender heterosexual ‘norm’. The addition of the plus on the end is a useful shorthand for including people whose identities aren’t explicitly listed, such as asexual, aromantic, queer, questioning and intersex people. Many of these people struggle as a result of erasure and lack of awareness, which can impact their inclusion in LGBT+ circles and make it difficult to navigate their own LGBT+ identities. In the Plus Campaign this year, we aim to platform the voices and experiences of those encompassed by the ‘Plus’ and celebrate the diversity of LGBT+ people – so we have brought together a few of these voices to show why this is so important.

Reclaiming Queer [Anonymous]

As someone who is non-binary and pansexual, ‘queer’ is a useful term which encompasses my identity on several levels and honestly is just the quicker explanation. I identify a lot with the term because of its political nature rooted in resistance – even the word is a reclaimed slur. Sometimes it can feel like queer identities are less represented in mainstream ‘acceptable images’ of LGBT+ people, with the cis gay couples assimilating more into a heteroromantic image of love and sex as these are more widely accepted and ‘approved’ by our non-LGBT+ counterparts. More awareness of queer identity and the consequences of adopting one in terms of resisting societal norms would help celebrate the true diversity of the LGBT+ movement.

Questioning and Identity Politics [Anonymous]

I think, like many people in the LGBT+ community, I’ve been through a fairly complex route of accepting my identity, and there were long periods of questioning – to this day I still question certain aspects of my LGBT+ identity. By including questioning in the acronym you give people who have not reached any conclusions yet time to breathe and test the waters, so to speak. To be welcomed into the community without identity policing, and to have their experiences validated. Some people stay in this area for a long time – some people use the term to summarise their general ‘questioning’ of the need to apply a gender or sexuality label to themselves. There are many ways questioning people can reject cis heteronormativity without having to occupy a fixed or certain identity, and they deserve to be recognised and included.

Gay or Ace – You’ve Got to Choose [Anonymous]

It is a common theme among the LGBT+ community that, when two or more identities collide, one often takes over the other. When I was a young teenager, I was often bullied for ‘seeming’ gay. Never mind the fact that I just had slightly long hair and sometimes put my hands on my hips; I was simply not ‘masculine’ enough. The bullying I received was more focused on insulting my masculinity than actually claiming I was gay, but the ‘damage’ was there. Thus, when I realised that I could be attracted to men, I immediately started thinking I was gay. It wasn’t until much later, when I discovered that I was asexual, that I realised I was actually biromantic. Yet for some reason, people refuse to accept that double identity. If I could be attracted by men, that had to mean I was desperate for sex, lusting after ‘all the gays’. If I said I was simply not interested by sex, people would first see me as an odd disrupted human being that needed ‘fixing’, but also as someone who could never develop a romantic relationship, especially with the ‘sex-addicted gays’. The relationship between these two parts of me is underpinned by homophobic and acephobic assumptions. It seems that despite all the legal progress that has been made for some LGBT+ communities, public opinion still struggles to not see us as disrupting and disturbed deviants.

Coming out as asexual [Lisa]

Content Note: the following contains mentions of sexual abuse

While coming out as asexual might not seem like a big deal to some – after all, asexuality is framed around the lack of something – it had a huge impact on me personally. At the time, I was still in my first relationship with someone who was emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive towards me by coercing me into having sex with them and blaming my lack of interest in and enjoyment of sex entirely on me, and never on the harmful dynamics of our relationship. I quite vehemently reject the label of heterosexuality for myself, partially because of these circumstances, which might come across as petty, but assumed heterosexuality caused me a great deal of pain for many years of my life, while I was unable to put my finger on what exactly the issue was.

Realising that I was asexual enabled me to establish a newfound sense of bodily autonomy, but it also, and even more importantly, gave me peace of mind, almost a sense of tranquillity and the reassuring feeling that there is, in fact, nothing ‘wrong’ with me. It also gave me  the vocabulary to express my attraction towards others and the extent to which I’m comfortable with physical and/or sexual contact in a nuanced manner.

By recognising that attraction can be experienced on multiple levels (romantic, platonic, aesthetic, sexual, to name just a few) and that they don’t always have to ‘match’, as well as acknowledging how a person’s physiological sex drive, their enjoyment of sex, and their general attitude towards it (some people are sex-favourable while others are indifferent or averse to it) can operate independently of each other, I believe that anyone, regardless of any sexual orientation, would be able to express their desires or lack thereof with more confidence and a feeling of reassurance.

Asexuality in the Queer Scene [Anonymous]

Content Note: the following contains mentions of sexual assault

Navigating life as an asexual is often confusing. Quite a few people don’t seem to get that I’m really not fussed about sex. I’m literally indifferent. I couldn’t care less. Sex, for me, is like prawn cocktail crisps. I get why you’d eat them if you were really hungry and hadn’t been shopping – but it seems pointless and slightly uncomfortable the rest of the time.

Maybe that is a weird metaphor. It probably is. But it’s difficult to put into language what it’s like to live surrounded by people who are massive prawn cocktail fans. Why does every movie have an obligatory *eating prawn cocktail crisps scene*? Why is every song on the radio about those damn crisps? Why do people expect me to have lots of prawn cocktail crisps in order to be whole and happy? Why do all of my relationships feel like they are leading inevitably up to a dramatic prawn cocktail feast? Like they aren’t really valid until they reach that stage?

I’m perfectly fine living off bourbons, thank you. There. I said it. I’m one of the lucky ones. Asexual homoromantic refugees face the threat of being deported back to dangerous areas because they are ‘not gay enough’ to qualify for LGBT+ asylum. They are often, however, ‘too gay’ to be safe where they are. It’s part of the wider pattern of homophobia and queerphobia, with a side-helping of xenophobia.

“My orientation fluctuates with my gender, and with the relationship that I have with my body.”

My struggles are nothing compared to this, but I have experienced violence. It’s hard to find people who can stand to date you (I’m grey-panromantic, but not all asexuals experience romantic attraction) – and nearly all sexual-ish attention is unwanted. I’ve experienced ‘corrective’ sexual assault aimed at “fixing” my asexuality. I’ve felt very lonely and very broken at times. I’ve doubted if I was ‘queer enough’, as if ‘queer’ were some kind of medal of honour you earn by engaging frequently in non-heterosexual sex. (Just to be clear: it isn’t!)

Perhaps it’s a simpler way of life; sex is inherently political and often navigating bodies is a minefield of power-relations. I can seriously do without all that – especially when there are roads to walk, friends to meet, and books to read.

What isn’t simple is the labyrinthine relationship between my gender and sexuality. Usually, I’m an advocate of the approach that gender and sexual orientation are separate things, but in my case, there does seem to be a link. I am non-binary. My relationship with my body is complicated (isn’t everybody’s?). This means that the parts of me which trigger my dysphoria are the parts which are most likely to be sexualised. I’m not only navigating a world obsessed with sex; I am also learning to navigate it in this body. (A sarxonaut? This isn’t a word, but it should be.)

When I feel more ‘femme’, my sexual orientation changes; I am pansexual. When I feel more ‘masc’, I am asexual. My orientation fluctuates with my gender, and with the relationship that I have with my body. How can I navigate another’s body when I cannot come to terms with my own?

I’m not saying that I’m asexual because I’m trans. There are lots of allosexual trans folk. I’m just saying that aside from not being sexually attracted to anybody, the dysphoria I feel as a result of my body being the way that it is makes it harder to open up and be vulnerable in my skin. Especially when it’s not something I need (or even want) to do in the first place. I’ve noticed that within the Cambridge queer community, there is a fairly high number of trans folks who hit the asexual spectrum in one way or another. It’s an interesting correlation which does not in any way invalidate either orientation or gender identity.

I am happy to be who I am: asexual and non-binary. I do not need to be fixed. I am just as I am.

And more... 

There are even more voices to platform – when the Plus Campaign started last term, we organised an event in collaboration with MedSoc and invited some intersex people to talk about their experiences. There were some truly harrowing stories of medical negligence, forced castration at birth, and failure of the medical community to recognise and accept them without intervention (the entire talk is available on YouTube). Intersex people are often disregarded in the LGBT+ movement as they are unique in that their identities relate to a diverse range of physical sexual characteristics. However, neglecting to ally with them as a marginalised group –  like many of us in the LGBT+ community, they are also considered to ‘deviate from the norm’ – serves only to slow the changes that need to occur for intersex people to be accepted for who they are.

In the coming weeks the Plus Campaign will be running a series of events for people interested in finding out more. For more details, visit the Facebook page.

  • Asexual history talk (4th February)
  • Polyamory/ Ethical non-monogamy panel discussion (11th February)
  • Valentine’s craft event exploring the dynamics of queer love (12th February)
  • Politics of Queer Identity talk, featuring Aderonke Apata (18th February)

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