We’re missing something.
Asexuality is more common than breast cancer and testicular cancer combined.
Asexuality is more common than multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.
Asexuality is more common than blindness.
Asexuality is more common than AIDS.
Asexuality is more common than deafness.
There are more asexuals in the United States than there are Muslims.
There are more asexuals in the United States than there are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There are more asexuals in the United States than there are graduates of Yale.
There are more asexuals in the United States than there are people serving in the armed forces.
There are more asexuals in the United States than there are residents of San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Miami and Pittsburgh combined.
What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of us. There are more of us as there are people in those other groups, groups that everyone has heard of. We’re not some tiny microscopic subset of the population. We live on just about every street. We work in just about every office. We go to just about every school. We eat at just about every restaurant. There are a lot of us.
So how come we don’t have strong, coordinated, non-profit organization dedicated to active outreach and education about asexuality?
It’s strange that we don’t have a group like this. Look at all the groups dedicated to autism research and awareness. Look at all the pink ribbons for breast cancer and red ribbons for AIDS and yellow bracelets for testicular cancer. Look at all the telethons and fundraising drives and 5K fun runs for things you’ve never heard of. Hell, there are non-profit organizations dedicated to things like 3D photography and woodcarving and investigating UFO sightings. Where is ours?
What we have is a scattered collection of volunteer efforts, largely driven by single individuals. Often, these individuals have competing interests, like school or a job. And I’ve seen several promising projects fizzle out when the person working on them loses interest or is unable to continue. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many individuals out there doing incredible work. Some of them have far more energy and dedication and drive than I have. But they’re mostly working alone, in isolation. But imagine what some of these people could do if they had a well-funded, skilled organization giving them support and acting as a means of collaboration?
There are many things that such an organization could bring us.
- It would be a constant force for awareness.
- It would present a professional face of asexuality to the world.
- It would provide support and legitimacy to outreach and awareness efforts.
- It would be able to reach people and resources that individuals can’t.
- It would be able to coordinate the work of multiple activists toward a unified goal.
I know there was an effort to put together a 501(c)(3) a few years ago, but I haven’t heard anything about that lately. I don’t know, maybe it’s just in pre-launch stealth mode or maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I get the feeling that it’s stalled out.
So, here’s my wishlist for things I’d like to see in an asexuality focused non-profit organization.
- Clear Goals. I want the group to say “We’re doing this right now, and in September, we’re going to launch this other thing.” I want to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and I want to see progress on what they’ve done.
- Uniform Presentation and Messaging. The organization should produce a series of pamphlets and posters and slideshows and videos and supporting web pages that all have a common presentation style. Similar imaging and graphical style, and similar or even identical text. The different media should complement and reinforce one another.
- Core Paid Staff. There need to be people running the ship who don’t have to worry about their day job interfering with their work for the organization, because their work for the organization is their day job. Of course, there will be plenty of room for volunteer participation, but the people who keep the lights on and the doors open should get paid for it. (And there really should be lights to keep on and doors to keep open. I think a physical office is important.)
- Dues Paying Members. The money for doing all this work has to come from somewhere. It can’t all be an endless train of Kickstarter campaigns to get the funding.
- The Organization is Bigger than the Individual. There may be a spokesperson, but they speak on behalf of the organization. It can’t end up a cult of personality.
- Active Outreach. The organization can’t just wait for people to find it, it has to go out and reach the undiscovered aces who don’t even know about asexuality and are wondering why they’re different. It should reach out to high school counselors, who may be dealing with students who are wondering why it seems like puberty left them behind. It should reach out to college LGBTQ*/GSRM groups and student health centers, who may be dealing with students who are struggling with navigating the sex-charged university scene and are feeling alone. It should reach out to psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage counselors and sex therapists, who may be dealing with clients who are feeling broken and alone because they’re not interested in sex. And the information packages it mails out need to be targeted. All of these audiences have different needs, so it can’t be the same one-size-fits-all pamphlet. The high school packet should be aimed at teenagers, while the psychiatrist packet should be tailored specifically for them.
- Close Collaboration with Sexuality Researchers and Psychiatric Professionals. There should be a select group of researchers and therapists who are experts on asexuality that are closely associated with the organization. They can provide legitimacy to the group, the group can provide legitimacy to them, and expertise and knowledge and other benefits will flow both directions. It needs to bridge academics and non-academics and work to get the right information to the right people.
- Legal Advice Team. One thing that struck me about the reports from CC13 earlier this year was how it seemed like everyone was caught off guard by a request from another group for a legal brief on asexuality. That request ended up requiring the full attention of several of the conference goers, to the exclusion of the activities and networking opportunities they had gone there for. Now, that work was very valuable, no doubt, but it seemed like the whole situation would have gone better if there’d been a lawyer or two they could’ve tapped for help. There have to be ace lawyers out there who’d be willing to do some occasional pro-bono work for the cause.
- Media Outreach and PR Staff. cf. House, “Better Half”. Never again.
- Active Social Media Updates. Whenever there’s an event, there should be a live series of updates and pictures about what’s happening. If there’s a conference, there need to be videos posted of every session. If there’s a parade march, there needs to be a designated photographer shooting the entire route. People who can’t be there in person have to feel like they didn’t miss anything.
- Celebrity Spokesperson. There’s a lot of “might be, could be” asexual celebrities out there, but it’s all conjecture based on one or two mentions of the word in an interview somewhere. Yes, Tim Gunn and Janeane Garofalo have called themselves “asexual”, but no one knows if they’re really asexual the way we mean it. Thing is, I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked them… The organization would work to reach out to potentially asexual celebrities to find out if they are, in the hopes of finding someone who would be willing to act as a celebrity face of the organization. Having a celebrity spokesperson would have multiple benefits. Obviously, having a recognizable name come out and be visible as asexual would do wonders toward making aces feel like they’re not alone. It’s also a great way to introduce others to the concept. Someone you’re talking to might not know about asexuality, but they’ve probably heard about that famous person. Even people who’ve never heard of asexuality and don’t know any asexuals might be introduced to the concept through their favorite celebrity. There are also fiscal benefits to having a celebrity spokesperson affiliated with your organization. To be blunt, they often have money and know people who have money, and could very well be the most effective fundraising technique the group would have.
- Organized Annual Conference. This is where all those researchers and lawyers and psychiatrists and members and celebrities and teachers and PR people that I mentioned earlier get together to talk about asexuality and its implications. The conference would be a gathering in its own right, it wouldn’t piggyback on something else.
- Form Alliances and Partnerships with Other Organizations. One organization can’t do it all alone. In many cases it might make sense to join forces with other groups to tackle an issue. Maybe there’s a celibacy group out there to partner with on some issue or a singles group on another or a gay rights group that has expertise in some area. Who knows, maybe even that 3D photography club might come in handy sometime!
- Clear Focus. If it tries to cover everything all at once from the get-go, it’ll be spread too thin and not get anywhere. All these things I’ve listed don’t have to be accomplished on day one. Maybe it starts with producing informational packets to provide to college groups, then moves on to something else once that’s established. And the group can’t feel obligated to include every subject or handle every intersection, because there are infinitely many topics that are important to people and infinitely many ways that they can intersect. It’s okay to say, “We can’t cover that right now.” It’s okay to say, “That’s not what we’re talking about here.” It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, we don’t have the resources for that.”
And perhaps most importantly:
- Catchy Name. The organization needs a catchy name. Something easy to say, easy to remember, difficult to confuse. Something that’ll look nice on a letterhead. Something with an easy to type domain name. Something that clearly indicates who they are and what they do. (For some reason, “Aria” has stuck in my head. I like it as a word, but I’m not a fan of anything I’ve backronymed onto it, like “Asexual Resource and Information Association”. Any better ideas?)
We have to do this ourselves. We can’t keep waiting for someone else to do it for us. We can’t stand around and beg other groups to take us in. Smaller organizations don’t have the resources to help us out, and their mission is probably unrelated to ours anyway. Larger organizations might take us under their wing, but they have so many other concerns that asexuality will never be their focus. We’ll always be a secondary concern or afterthought to them. If we want a group that stands by us, fights for us, and cares about us first and foremost, then we have to make it ourselves.
So… How do we start?
If you cake, they will come.