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Livestream Q&A on Sun, July 11: Updating the Definition on the AVEN Homepage


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AVENguy
Posted (edited)

A few months ago the AVEN Board of Directors voted to update the definition of asexuality on the AVEN homepage from “An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” to “An asexual person is someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction.” In many ways this change is overdue: for a long time we’ve been a community that embraced a spectrum of ace experience, and it makes sense to update our most public definition accordingly.

 

The definition on our homepage is just that: one public definition of asexuality, but not the definition. It’s a flag that people can see from afar and rally around, but ultimately it is up to every aspec person to find a word that fits their experience, not to fit their experience to a word. 

 

This definition has been the source of ongoing discussion here on AVEN, and the board wants to have a chance to engage directly with members of the community before making the change. For that reason we’re hosting a: 

 

Livestream Q&A On Updating the Definition of Asexuality on the AVEN Homepage

Sunday, July 11th

10:00AM PDT/1:00 PM EDT/6:00 PM BST

You can view the livestream here

You can ask questions here, or by going to https://sli.do and entering the code #avendefinition

An ASL translator will be present for the broadcast

 

This thread is locked, but there is a thread to discuss the definition update in site comments.

Edited by AVENguy
Updating livestream link.
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This is the full transcript of the livestream.

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DJ: Hello uh, thanks to everyone joining us today. My name is David Jay. I use he/him pronouns. I am on the board of AVEN, and I’m pleased to introduce Yasmin Benoit also on our board and Joshua who’s very kindly interpreting for us today. Yasmin would you like to say anything before we start?

 

Yasmin: Just hi everybody thanks for tuning in. I think most of you probably know by now that I’m on the board, but just in case you didn’t I’ve been on the board since 2019 and yeah I’m looking forward to addressing all of your feedback and concerns in this livestream.

 

DJ: um and thank you to everyone who has commented on the change in the site comments thread, to folks who’ve raised concerns, especially folks who’ve raised some valid concerns that I want to talk about today. Thanks everyone who has added questions to the slido, uh and I will see if I can put a, find a way to put that slido link, but if you go to sli.do and then use hashtag asexual definition, you’ll see the questions for, that we’ll be answering today. And I wanted to, so, thank you to everyone and uhm I also when I read the, us and other folks on the board read a lot of the concerns that people have. I just want to say that I see a lot of fear of um being vulnerable. Like there is a world out there that has a very strong sexual imperative that expects us to be showing up like in a way that doesn’t work for us that doesn’t work for our bodies, and that’s really scary and it’s really important to have a space that feels safe from that. And so I want to speak to need of that space and how we build that, because that’s I think something that we share with a lot of the concerns that are being said here today. And I think uh what I’d like to do is uhm first of all just share a little of the history of the definition of aven and the definition of asexuality on aven and how, some of the context that came into the decision that the board made, and then I would love to go through and pull out some of the really valid points from the thread in site comments and speak to them and then speak to some of the questions that you are all putting on slido. Yasmin do you have anything you’d like to add before we dive in? I think I’m doing a lot of the talking in the beginning and then I’m excited to have more…

 

Yasmin: Um no? I think we’re good. I just commented on the thread on AVEN just to remind people that we have just started, so yeah I think we’re ready to go.

 

Dj: awesome. So AVEN started back in 2001. And it started at a time when the definition of asexuality was being debated in what was then the haven for the human amoeba. This one yahoo group with like 40 people or so on it. There was one email thread and we were going back and forth. And in that email thread there was a big division between people, at that point like and and like a handful of other folks who were early on AVEN and other, and some other folks who were part of sites like the official asexual society. And um, in that debate, the some people felt like it was really important to have the definition of asexuality that was clear and consistent that made sense to the world. There was the sense that if we didn’t make sense to the world by having a really consistent definition then we would never be understood. We would never be accepted. And so we had to clearly define what asexuality was. And we had to make sure that only people who met that definition were invited into the asexual community. And they would put up these quizzes. It was like a 10 item quiz and you had to answer every question a particular way in order to qualify as asexual. And they really wanted to have this community built around like the definition an enforced barrier for who was allowed in the community and who wasn’t. On AVEN we really felt differently. We felt that a definition was a tool and not a label. That we were going to have a set of words that was sort of like a flag that people could see form far off and gather around, but ultimately the definition of asexuality was that if someone identified, if someone chose to identify as asexual then that person was asexual. Asexuality was a tool and not a label. So if it was useful to someone and they picked it up, then it was our job to respect the fact that that person had picked up the identity and was using it. And if it stopped being useful and they put it down we could respect they were putting it down. And when everyone picked up the tool they could sort of tweak it, define it, paint it their own fabulous colors, make their definition of asexuality a little bit different than everyone else’s in order to match their own personal experience. And so that way of thinking about identity which was really core to aven’s founding, if someone identifies as asexual, you kind of have to get into a longer conversation about that word means to them. You can’t just assume it means one consistent thing for everyone. Which is I think pretty true of our experience regardless right? Like my experience as an asexual person is really different than yours, Yasmin. It’s really different than someone who grows up in a community of faith. So I think that that need to not have, that need have a definition that is flexible and that meets the people who it’s serving has always been really important. And because we had that flexibility, in who could show up, and who was accepted in the community, we started to see these other terms emerge. We started to see grey-a emerge. We started to see demisexual emerge. And those were really because asexuality was originally called just asexuality, right now called the ace spectrum, was a spectrum. And you had people in the middle who experienced sexual attraction enough that it was a thing they wanted the world to know about, in some way. They wanted to be externally visible and legible, and so those folks identified as grey-a and demi. And then you had folks at the end of the spectrum who experienced either no sexual attraction or so little sexual attraction that it really didn’t matter. According to I think the latest ace census 30% of people who identify as asexual have experienced some form of sexual attraction at some time in their lives but it’s small enough and rare enough that they, that it’s not something that they necessarily, like, it doesn’t make sense for them to identify as grey-a or demi because of a thing they felt one time five years ago. And so over the years as I’ve gone around and done ace visibility stuff I’ve been approached by a bunch of people who’ve said ‘look, me and a bunch of other people who identify as asexual that I know, all have this thing of like, we have experienced some tiny amount of sexual attraction but the definition still, but the word asexual still feels a lot better to us and makes a lot more sense to us than the word grey-a’. And we’ve been as a board sitting with what to, sitting with what to do about the fact that the definition on our homepage doesn’t match the population of people who use that definition. It doesn’t match a pretty significant portion of people who use that definition. Because our core identity is, uh, belief is that definitions are about who picks them up. And there is a balance and I think it’s an important balance between those two things that happened, that were necessary at that, that were kind of in debate at AVEN’s founding, between on the one hand comprehensibility and simplicity, I think that I could imagine going too far in having a definition that was, that was very like, that was kind of too difficult to make sense of, and inclusion. And I think that what we’ve decided as the board is that there are enough people at sort of the end of the spectrum who are identifying as asexual that it makes sense to have a definition that is inclusive of the people who are using it. And we are, and I think one thing that’s been true and true in AVEN’s history, is that the people who, the people who said that if we weren’t, the people who said that we needed to focus on having a definition that was clear, that we needed to focus on having a definition that was simple, that unless we could kind of take the complexity of our own experience and collapse it and hide it to be comprehensible to the world, we wouldn’t be seen and accepted. I think a lot of have been proven wrong. What we’ve seen throughout asexual history is that when we stand up with the complexity of our experience and the complexities of our stories and the diversities of our stories and we share those, those can be seen and accepted and they allow allow all of us to be more accepted and they allow more of us to be accepted than if we create definition that exclude people. And so that’s the principle that I think we’re acting from as a board when we think about this definition change. I’m just checking my notes. So I think with that I will, Yasmin see if you have anything you want to add, I know that there were some great, uhm there were some good points that were raised in the forum that I wanted to take the time to speak to but, curious if any, if you have any thoughts before we dive into that.

 

Yasmin: well we before we get onto the questions we wanted to speak of some of the concerns that were raised in the thread. I see that a lot of people are posting questions in the comments and a lot of people have also posted questions in the slido which we will be getting to later, but we have been following the thread even though both myself and David Jay haven’t exactly been actively responding to them, we’ve been picking some of the comments that seem to be representative of a train of thought that a lot of people are having, and then we’re just gonna kinda discuss some of those concerns that were echoed in the thread and I can see are also being echoed in these comments as well. So we’ve selected some representative ones. Should I just, should we go into those now?

 

DJ: yeah, uh and maybe we start uh, Yasmin I put a bunch of them here and I don’t want to use all of our time just on the thread but maybe we can start with a few of these that feel like they, that you think would be good to talk to, to speak to.

 

Yasmin: Yeah I think one of the things that kind of touches on what you mentioned before I think is, someone posted, I'm sure I could probably say their name if I’m gonna pronounce it correctly, it was knight of Cydonia. They said that they think that the consequences of the change are gonna be greater than the perceived gains because there is a very subjective view of what is considered little and that this change could add even more misconceptions about asexuality, attract more confused people to the forums, and make asexuals who feel no sexual attraction, not a little, but zilch, nada, feel like they can’t relate to their own label and make it harder to educate people about asexuality which is one of AVEN’s main purpose. That is something that has been echoed in the forum quite a bit is the idea that it’s inclusive to the points of it being too complicated and that it’s going to make more people feel like they might be asexual, which I guess we’re seeing as potentially being a negative and coming to the forums being confused and asking questions.

 

DJ: Yeah and I think I would um first of all I would say I understand the fear of people being confused and I understand the fear of not having a place where we can show up to talk to people who share our experiences and get away from this the pressure that exists in our society to perform the sexuality that we don’t have. Like I feel that, I get that. And when I have talked to asexual people who have experienced very small amounts of sexual attraction, like, I don’t feel threatened. It’s not, there’s not a meaningful difference between their experience in the world, the struggles they’re having, the things they need support with and the struggles and the experience that I’m having as an asexual person. And I would really, I think I would question that people showing up who have experienced like they see the term asexual, they see the term grey-a, and they say ‘you know what, the term asexual really fits for me, even though on very rare occasions I’ve experienced sexual attraction’ like I don’t think that those people showing up is a threat to our safety and cohesion as a community. And when I think about people from the outside I don’t imagine that, I don’t think that naming that we are a community that sits, and even the word asexual is an identity that sits on a spectrum is going to create confusion if that accurately describes the people who hold the identity. I think that people will look at that and still say ‘oh this means you are experiencing either no sexual attraction or very very small amounts of sexual attraction and so I should, I should, like seek to understand and respect that’. And if someone is being respectful, I know that there was another concern that was raised about what if people see this and then think that they kind of have a chance with asexual identified people that otherwise they wouldn’t. If anyone is being respectful, first of all if someone is not going to be respectful of our identity, they’re not gonna google it and look at AVEN (both laugh), and if they do, if they’re going to be respectful then they’re going to ask questions about what asexuality means to the person they’re talking to, and I think that’s the piece that they keep coming back to, is we’re gonna be in a community where if we want to understand someone’s asexual experience or demisexual or grey experience, we’re going to need to ask for a story deeper than a definition and that’s always been the case, and that’s gonna continue to be the case, and, and so there will always be room if, for those of you who experience absolutely no sexual attraction, never have, and feel like that’s a really critical part of your identity, there will be room for you to tell that piece of your experience in the story, it just won’t be baked into a definition that inaccurately describes the experiences of other people.

 

Yasmin: Yeah I think it’s particularly good point when you talk about like you know you’re gonna have to ask for people’s individual stories to understand what their experience of asexuality is. I definitely understand the experience of having an idea of what asexuality is and then having the opportunity to interact with different asexual people and having one of those moments, which can be cool it can be jarring depending on your mood where you’re like ‘oh that is not what I kind of envisaged, I don’t feel like I can relate that much and I assumed I would be able to relate to everybody’, but at the same time realistically everyone’s experiences is gonna be different. My experience as an asexual person is gonna be different to yours, Is gonna be different to other people’s and I think even if we’re all using the same terminology, even if we’re all saying asexual or if you’re saying ace-spec or demisexual whatever, everyone’s is gonna be different either way I think.

 

DJ: Are there other comments from the thread that you want to share?

 

Yasmin: Yeah, I think one, another point that I saw a lot of people kinda echoing which I think is kind of just based on a disapproval of defining asexuality as being a lack of sexual attraction. I think that there are definitely people on the forums that would rather lean it into specifically being about sexual activity, particularly sexual activity with another person. There’s a comment from someone called Sally which echoes a lot of points that people had which is that it should, that they think that asexuality should be defined in a simple easy to understand way as an innate absence of the desire to have sex with another person, which in turn would consequently eliminate any asexual people that I guess you might call sex-positive asexual people that still want to have sex or still enjoy having sex or still seek out sexual encounters with other people despite not feeling sexual attraction. There’s been quite a few comments like that. I think, I don’t know whether that’s an example of what people are calling the sexual desire based definition, but I’ve definitely heard a lot of them link to that idea.

DJ: um so I can speak to, I think part of the way that we wound up with sexual attraction was especially early on in the community people recognizing that there were a lot of, so, that a lot of aces had a relationship, I think early on it was, had a relationship with sexuality, so there were aces who masturbated, there were aces who related to sexuality in other ways, but there was a pretty consistent thread of not desiring sexuality in a partnered relationship with someone else, and sexual attraction became a way to, became a pretty externally legible term to define that experience that we weren’t having. I think it’s pretty close to what is named in this as innate sexual desire but the question of what’s innate gets really to me gets really really thorny in a way that makes that alternative definition not necessarily clearer. It’s something that I think when we reconvene as a board and talk about all of the learnings and things that have come together from this it’s something that we could talk about but to me because we’re in a society that has such a strong sexual imperative it can be really difficult to know what desires are innate and what desires are us really wanting a deep emotional connection with someone and feeling like sexuality is the only way to accomplish that. And so I think sexual attraction to me, because it’s an experience that other sexual people talk about having really strongly that I know that I don’t have, that often is kindof pretty upstream from an actual desire for sex has felt like an easier litmus test, but that’s, that’s sort of my experience and also the historical reason why that was chosen.

 

Yasmin: I just wanted to say people are asking can I see the comments, yes I can see the comments, people are saying, I’m saying, I’m not saying the correct thing. I’m reading exactly what the comments were we have copied comments and pasted them onto a google document and I am reading the words ‘maintain a simple easy to understand definition, asexuality is the innate absence of desire to have sex with another person’ which would, these are my words, keeping in my mind that there are asexual people who do still desire to have sex with another person and do have sex with another person, so if you were to define asexuality as having an absence of desire to have sex with another person, that would then not be entirely inclusive of the asexual people that do still desire to have sex with people whether or not they experience sexual attraction to that person or not. I am literally reading the exact text that is written in front of me.

 

DJ: And that’s text, just to be clear, not from the comments on YouTube, but from the thread in site comments. Um If I’m reading you right Yasmin.

 

Yasmin: Yes, yeah.

 

DJ: Um so if there’s a similar thing being said in the youtube comment thread, that’s why the language is a little bit different.

 

Yasmin: This is not me saying my, this is not me listing my concerns or my opinions, this is me reading comments from the thread which were representative of a lot of the different opinions that we were seeing. Instead of going through every single thing, we’re just highlighting some that felt representative, for those who are confused.

 

DJ: And if I can just speak to that again, uhm what at least my experience has been, being in the ace community for a long time, is that whether or not someone has the shared experience of asexuality, that is the shared experience of not experiencing sexual attraction in a world that expects us to and demands that we do, uhm, has very little to do with whether that person winds up in a relationship where it makes sense for them to like, sex is a form of affection that it makes sense for them to do, there’s a lot of reasons why an asexual person may decide that that’s something they’re open to, and I think it’s really important that they not feel like they’re losing access to their identity and they’re losing access to a community when making that decision.

 

Yasmin: And there was another point that someone left called BeakLove, again this is not my point, this is one of the points that was on the thread, which also echoed quite a few concerns, which I guess was sort of kind of touched upon in some of the others which is pretty much that because AVEN is a point of reference for many media outlets to discuss asexuality, having what they’re defining as ‘watery definitions’ takes away the meaning makes it unclear and is going to spread confusion further when it comes to the wider media discussing asexuality.

 

DJ: So I think it will force a more accurate nuance if anything. Yasmin you and I have both been in the media a lot and I think when… there is confusion, but the confusion gets settled when we tell stories about our human experience. We tell what it’s like to live life as an asexual person, and when we tell those stories, if we do a good job, we’re talking about both how within the term asexuality there’s a big diversity of experience and within the asexual spectrum there’s an even bigger diversity of experience, so I think for the media to get the story, they have to get that that diversity of experience exists, and trying to collapse asexuality into one narrow set of experiences isn’t going to make the story simpler for the press and it’s going to make it less accurate to our community.

 

Yasmin: Yeah, I agree, one thing I always try and do whenever I do speak about asexuality I’ve always defined it as ‘little to no’ when I was speaking to the media, it hasn’t really been met with much confusion, I don’t think people have really found it that hard to understand because I always emphasize that there is nuances to every single sexual orientation, every single sexuality, and I think it does everyone on this planet a disservice to think that everything is simple, or black and white, or that there aren’t many nuances in the experiences, so I don’t think that it’s necessarily gonna be a hindrance. I don’t think that people take it, I mean of course there’s gonna be outliers, but I don’t think that people are going to take it as far as people fear they will. And I just wanna say that from the perspective of someone that inherently ends up talking to the media a lot and ends up getting a lot of responses from the general public and kind of ends up being in that sphere. I don’t think it is actually seen as being that confusing in my opinion. That part is actually my opinion.

 

DJ: Yeah (both laugh)

 

Yasmin: Uhmm yeah but one of the other concerns that did pop up, I guess you kinda touched upon was this idea that people are going to think that they’re gonna take the little to no part so seriously that when you tell them you’re asexual they’re still going to apply that ‘you just haven’t met the right person yet’ idea ‘there is still a chance, this person is probably demisexual’, and therefore it is gonna be like a more unsafe environment for people who identify as asexual, because people are now not gonna take that as ‘they are sexually unavailable to me’, they’ll take that as ‘there is still a chance’ and that could then be a problem.

 

DJ: Yeah and I would argue that if someone is going to be disrespectful of our identity and the truth is a lot of people out there are, then a more exclusive definition on the AVEN homepage is not gonna stop that. Like they’re probably not gonna care to look, they’re just gonna come up with whatever definition of asexuality is in their head, and they’re going to assume that that’s, like, they’re going to assume that, and they’re going to kind of be disrespectful from that place. And so I think the question is how do we educate the people who want to be respectful of our identities. How do we educate the allo people who like actually want to be allies to us and get to know who we are and get to understand our experiences about what that experience is in a way that’s accurate and that feels like if someone is in that place of wanting to be an ally, of wanting to understand our experience, then they can take the time to learn the nuance. And we can take the time to say like ‘okay here’s my personal experience, here’s where I fit.’ And ask them to understand that about us. And I yeah. I’ll leave it.

 

Yasmin: Do you think that it’s to quote someone’s feedback ‘degrades the meaning of what asexual or asexuality means to make it inclusive or to kind of blend it with the term asexual spectrum, or asexual umbrella, or ace umbrella’, depending on how you want to put it.

 

DJ: yeah so there’s this, I think a question that’s come up a lot is like the need for an umbrella term and the need for concrete identity terms. I tend to use ace as an umbrella term to refer to grey-a demisexual and asexual people, um and I think what we’re talking about here is that within the term asexual itself there is a diversity of people, like if it’s a spectrum it’s the end of the spectrum but not a like line, narrow line at one finite point at the end of that spectrum. And that’s what we want to, um because we’ve had plenty of people coming to us who live in that like very narrow part of the end, we wanted to update the definition to be inclusive of the people who have that experience and there was another point I was gonna make on this but I blanked, sorry. (both laugh) And yeah.

 

Yasmin: That actually, that does kinda lead on to one of the other questions which was, which I’ve also seen people in the comments say which is ‘why not include gray-a and demisexuality on the homepage instead of, as well as asexual and differentiate them into separate things, instead of using a kind of slightly more general term of asexuality’.

 

DJ: So we I think that’s an awesome idea and something that I know I was thinking about bringing it up with the board but I wanted to have one kind of take on one change at a time. I think that that is, also adding those definitions is definitely something I’d like us to talk about as a board because I think it would also really well, like reflect well how our community is structured and do important public education work, but I think that adding those definitions, because, doesn’t change the desire to have the desire to have a definition of asexual, of the word asexual, that it reflects people who identify as asexual.

 

Yasmin: Right and another one of the points which is on a slightly different subject which is ‘why did the board make this decision and not the community?’

 

DJ: We went back and forth on this. Because this is a debate that potentially is about excluding certain people like, if there’s been I think a default exclusion that’s been not ideal that I’ve been wanting to address for some time, personally. If we put it up for debate in community, then we’re having a debate within the community about whether people in the community should be excluded. And that did not feel safe or appropriate for those people. And so we as a board wanted to, felt it was appropriate because this tied to AVEN’s core values, to come out with a strong statement that we did want those people to be included, and we wanted the definition to be updated accordingly, rather than raising it as a question for debate.

 

Yasmin: Well that actually answers all of the ones that we had written down that were quite representative of what people were talking about on the thread, so next I guess we can kind of discuss some of the questions that other people are having.

 

DJ: Yeah, uhmm so there’s a question that’s gotten a lot of upvotes which is ‘what discussions have taken place with members outside of ace communities about how the new definition will be interpreted? Do non-aces interpret it correctly?’ I can speak a little bit to this but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of the question answering and Yasmin do you wanna uhm, do you wanna speak to this first or I can?

 

Yasmin: Um well I feel like a lot of people don’t know what the actual definition of asexuality is in the first place, like a lot of people get it wrong in general. There are various definitions online but I think that one of the most common ones is little to no sexual attraction. That is the term that I use when I’m describing asexuality to people and I do god knows how many interviews a week, (both laugh) and I feel like a lot of my work is speaking to people outside of the ace community and people really haven’t found it very confusing and they haven’t, they take it when you say it, I mean of course people to my face are probably being more respectful, there are of course going to be people online who say we’re just making the whole thing up, but they probably would’ve said that anyway (both laugh), regardless of what I was talking about. I don’t think that’s unique to the definition, I think that if people are closed-minded to anything that they’re not familiar with it doesn’t matter, whether you say little or not. But no personally I haven’t noticed people misinterpreting ‘little to no’ or taking that as a ‘oh so you can be converted, or this can happen or..’ even in my personal life people haven’t interpreted it that way, especially when usually when someone asks me based on personal experiences I’m sure the people watching you’ll give an answer based on your personal experience and I don’t say ‘oh so I might feel a little bit of sexual attraction, so there’s a chance there’ I would just say ‘I’m asexual, I don’t experience sexual attraction, you’re not gonna have sex with me, but we can chill’. And then there turns out not to be that much confusion unless they’re a jerk, in which case, then I wouldn’t hang out with them anyway, so it hasn’t caused that much confusion in my opinion.

 

DJ: Well said, and I’d echo that too, I’d probably say like 2012 or 2013 is when I started, when giving talks and talking to the press defining asexuality as ‘little to no’ sexual attraction rather than ‘no sexual attraction’ just because I’d had enough conversations with people who were asexual identified who were in that very little category. And it always, it’s never confused people. I’m always defining asexuality in the context of saying that it’s a spectrum and so saying that an asexual person experiences little to no sexual attraction, it’s a spectrum, asexual people on the end of that spectrum, and then grey and demi sexual people will experience sexual attraction either infrequently or very lightly or only in the context of a close, in the case of demisexual, only in the context of a close emotional relationship, like that makes, that seems to make a lot of sense to allo people that I’m talking, and I haven’t had any experience with people who need to have an absolute definition in order for them to get it, because most sexual people are familiar with everything else in sexuality being a spectrum so they’re like ‘oh cool this is too’, right (laughs)? Like I think if anything, having a definition that’s at an absolute would be, and really insisting on that, would be unlike the rest of how sexuality works in a way that would confuse people.

 

Yasmin: I think this one actually linked, I am skipping over a question, I will get to it, but I feel like this one links neatly on to what we just said, which is ‘how much is little in little to no sexual attraction?’

 

(Both laugh)

 

DJ: Do you want me to answer…

 

Yasmin: you can answer that one (laughs).

 

DJ: Okay I’ll go for this one. So there is a little bit of a area of ambiguity, if someone shows up, and they have, say that they like experience sexual attraction in a way that is perceivable to them like a little less than once a year, and they show up on AVEN and they’re reading through stuff and they’re trying to understand where they fit, they may be in this area where they they’re like ‘I could identify as grey-a, or I could identify as asexual, I’m not sure, let me think about each word, and which one feels more right to me, and which one feels like it communicates to the world what I want the world to know about me.’ And then they would choose the term that feels right to them. And that’s how identity, I think, works. That’s how I and how the, like, board of aven and historically a lot of aven has wanted identity to work. It’s a tool that people pick up when it’s useful. So there is intentional ambiguity, there’s, I think it’s good that people have the definitions allow people to ask that question and choose the thing that’s right for them. So how little it little, to me is little enough that it doesn’t make sense for an individual to identify as grey-a instead. And whatever that, wherever they find that, is something that I’m bound to respect.

 

Yasmin: Yeah I mean, I think that, I think that there is a fear that people have that, that there will be people that take the little part really far or like interpret it in a way that actually isn’t that little but for some reason they still want to identify as asexual despite feeling what some people would consider not being “a little” amount, as being a normal amount or as being a more than normal amount. I don’t really personally feel like that would be personally threatening to me if… I mean I’ve met asexual people, people that fall under the asexual umbrella, maybe they’re demi, and they already have that relationship and they have formed it and they have someone that they’re sexually attracted to and therefore they’re experiencing sexual attraction, and I am not. They consider themselves as being under the asexual umbrella, so do I. And every other aspect of our lives is different too, so it doesn’t really matter that that part is as well, (DJ laughs) and we’re still using the same terminology. That doesn’t negatively impact me I don’t think. I can understand why people might feel like if loads and loads of people stretch the term little then it may no longer be a place where they feel comfortable but I have some faith in humanity that people would not intentionally or maliciously do something or identify with a label with the intention of it not actually fitting them. Everyone has an experience that makes them feel like there is something different about them and that why they’re looking for those definitions in the first place and if you’re having those experiences then there’s a good chance that there’s a reason.

 

DJ: Yeah and I’ll just say like, it’s not like we give out free ice cream. (both laugh) Right, like when you identify as asexual…

 

Yasmin: There’s no prize! For saying you’re asexual.

 

DJ: Or free cake. Sometimes we give out free cake, but we give out free cake including to, when we do, it’s not just to people who identify as asexual. So like, there’s no reason to take on this identity unless you feel like it communicates internally to you and it communicates externally to the world um something that you want them to understand. And so people who take on the identity asexual like, want to be seen as asexual by the world. And I think if someone is showing up they’re learning that gray-a and demi identity exist, and they’re saying I still want to like, I still see myself and I still want the world to see me as an asexual person, then there’s probably a limitation on how much sexual attraction they are experiencing. And even if there’s someone like a small number of people who for whatever experience like they stretch that definition of little to what some would some of us would consider a lot, like I think that’s going to be rare, because there’s not a really compelling reason why someone would want to adopt an identity that way. And if they do then it doesn’t like, it doesn’t harm our community in any way, to offer support to that person alongside everyone else.

 

Yasmin: And I can see some people asking about a poll. There is a thing on slido that ‘says why don’t we have a poll where we present a few options for the definition and let everyone vote on it?’

 

DJ: I think that this gets back to what we felt as a board which is, and part of why I think it took us this long to do this, is that we knew this would be contentious and we also knew that this would be… A debate on this definition would potentially be a debate about excluding, explicitly deciding to exclude certain people from the community and so we felt like we wanted to come out and make a strong statement about inclusion, rather than having it be something that was decided based on who was most active on the board in this moment. And so I think we are as a board planning to move forward with our decision and also taking into account the coming back together to discuss and take into account the points that have been raised here, but I think still planning to move forward.

 

Yasmin: I’m looking at um ‘why not mention demisexuality and greysexuality?’ Yeah kinda covered that one, um (laughs) ‘why are we moving forward with the decision even though there’s opposition?’ I think we kinda covered that one. Although, there is, we are still obviously, we’re taking feedback, like we’re listening to what um everyone’s saying, so you know, everything is not like a hundred percent set in stone, but it is something that evidently the board are interested in. Going forward with um… Are there any slido comments that you think you specifically want, that you specifically want to… go into here?

 

DJ: I think there’s a question about why not say the term spectrum? And I think that that’s as we’ve talked about, that that’s a thing for us to talk about as a board if we’re going to include a demi and grey-a identify… gray-a identities on the home page, which is a possibility. I wanna make sure that it can, then there, it may be helpful to have text that describes a spectrum. And when we’re talking about the definition of asexuality that is, matches the people who are identifying as asexual, and there are, there’s, there are enough people there who are kind of at the end of the spectrum but not a finite point on it that having a definition that’s accurate there feels distinct from having a definition that defines the broader spectrum that ace identities fall under.

 

Yasmin: I mean we are planning on doing some like updating to the website, to the homepage and we go I’m sure there will probably be a page that is entirely dedicated to terminology so don’t worry everyone there probably will be a section that goes into, if there isn’t already, I haven’t checked in a while, that says everything regarding what is graysexuality, what is sex-favorable, what is sex-repulsed and all of those things, so it’s not like you know, no one’s going into those nuances. I think the point of this is to have, is to open the door so that people can go into the nuances more, rather than to not go into them at all.

 

DJ: one…

 

Yasmin: So it’s not…

 

DJ: One q…

 

Yasmin: … exclusive.

 

DJ: One question I want to speak to is, ‘what then is the specific identity for a person who does not experience sexual attraction at all? Some in this group would still want one.’ And I think it’s like, I have always, and I think AVEN (laughs) has always encouraged the creation of language. And so, on the, I would say both like, if you want a word then like make up a word. Making up words is great. And I think it’s really important to ask why that word feels so necessary. Like what, what is it, what is the difference in experience between someone who has never experienced sexual attraction and someone who experiences it so rarely that a gray-a identity doesn’t make sense? Like why is there a need to draw that distinction? Because in my experience like, the thing that bonds me to other asexual people is not the like, it’s not that. It’s the struggle that I have in a world that expects me to be sexual and tells me that if I’m not I’m gonna be broken and alone. And like that experience of being told I’m gonna be broken and alone and being told that I’m just making all this up, like that’s true for me, it’s true for in a different way for gray-a and demi people, it’s true for asexual people who experience like very very rare intermittent sexual attraction, and still identify as asexual. Like that’s the common thread. And there may be like, I may be sitting around a conversation at a conference and talking to one person who does not know what sexual attraction feels like because they never felt it and talking to another person who’s like ‘I think I maybe felt it one time but I don’t know it’s hard to tell’ (laughs). Like and that’s, that is sort of a nuanced diversity of experience but it’s not… And historically for me, when I’ve been hanging out in the ace community, that’s, that’s not the difference lose their identity on. But if people feel the need to, I won’t get in your way. Though I do hold that question of why, why that distinction feels important enough to be a core identity.

 

Yasmin: I’ve seen there’s a few people commenting saying what do asexual people that don’t experience sexual attraction call themselves. As an asexual who doesn’t experience sexual attraction I call myself asexual (DJ laughs). I’ve always used the little to no sexual attraction definition, as that definition I’d learned of in the beginning. I feel like this isn’t, it’s not new. So I’ve been functioning doing this work in our society with every, with people thinking that that is largely what the definition is, and it hasn’t negatively impacted my experience as someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Usually when you answer someone’s question of ‘what does asexuality mean’, that’s not the end of the conversation…

 

DJ: Yeah, ha! (laughs)

 

Yasmin: that is the start of the conversation. And then I have to then say what it means for me, and then you then have to then go into that, and even though I say I don’t experience sexual attraction, there are gonna be part of my experience that are still different to someone else who also doesn’t experience sexual attraction. I’m always asked about libido. I’m always asked about arousal. I’m always asked about romantic stuff like, I get all those questions about sex-repulsion, about sex-positivity, about attitudes and all these things. And you do end up going into that. So when you say ‘what do I call myself?’ I would just call myself asexual, because that’s what I am. And someone experiencing a little bit of sexual attraction and calling themselves asexual, and they’re gonna have to go into that experience and maybe they don’t have a libido, maybe there’s a whole bunch of things that are different but it’s like, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. To me anyways. So I feel like people shouldn’t really worry about whether or not they can still say ‘asexual’ meaning ‘doesn’t experience sexual attraction.’ Because guaranteed that’s not gonna be the last thing you say. So.

 

DJ: And then there’s one here ‘is the board concerned about member retention and how this will impact community participation from members who have been advocating to go in a different direction?’ I can I think I’ll speak to this first, and then Yasmin if you have thoughts, but I like I knew and the board knew that this was gonna be really controversial, that this definition is the, the, words of these definitions, this definition that is said on the homepage are something that people have become really used to and built an identity around and when we change this this sort of flag that people gather around we are not changing the, we’re not changing the definition that people adapt for themselves, because it’s a tool that you pick up and use for yourself. Like, we’re not trying to change the experience of asexual identified people. We’re changing the term that people see from afar to make it more accurate, but, and we knew this would be controversial and we felt like this was a controversy that where we wanted to make a clear statement in favour of the core values on which AVEN was founded. And so this is going to be like, I think this is a moment of tension around those core values, but that moment of tension is healthy for us to grapple with questions as a community about how we want to be a space that welcomes people to adopt the, to like explore ace identity and adopt the identity that feels right for them. And I think it’s an important point for us to come together and talk about, and understand, the costs of policing other people’s identity and excluding others who pick up the tool of an asexual identity and use it in a way that’s different than someone else might use it. So I think we are aware of the controversy and also feel like it’s an important controversy for our community to be sitting in.

 

Yasmin: I think funnily enough, I think I was probably the only person on the board that naively thought that no-one would care and there would be no controversy whatsoever (both laugh). I remember sitting there being like ‘who cares? Like no-one’s even gonna notice, like whatever’. (laughs) And then I saw the thread. I was like ‘oh they noticed, they cared.’ So whatever whatever points here do you think we should uh, we should get into. I am trying to follow your comments guys by the way.

 

DJ: Yeah.

 

Yasmin: I’m seeing y’all so be nice (laughs).

 

DJ: Yeah. And um. I’m just looking through these.

 

Yasmin: Ha, I wouldn’t say it’s PR by the way guys.

 

DJ: Yeah. (both laugh) Yeah. Um. I think there’s a, there’s a question and I wanna own up to this about the board being absent. And I wanna maybe clarify what the board does. So um. We are a collection of kindof ace activists from around the world who come together every other month or so, and talk at a high level about how to keep AVEN running, so how to keep paying for the servers, how to manage the technical side, work with the tech admin team to make sure they have what they need to keep the site up and running. We work on kind of help to support high level advocacy campaigns that are going around, going on around changing legislation, around trans inclusion, around different forms of education happening within the community. And I think our, we are one of several organizations, like groups of people coming together to try to advance ace visibility and education. We govern the formal organization of AVEN which kind of technically controls the AVEN website and most everything having to do with how the forums operate we delegate to the admod team, though we also coordinate with them to be helpful when we can. So we’re like, we are a governing body but we are pretty light. This is I think one of the more visible changes that we’ve made in a long time, and because it’s one of the more visible changes that we’ve made, we have, we wanted to be more active in engaging with you all. And for some of the reasons that we stated earlier we also didn’t want to open it as a question to everyone. We wanted to come out with a strong opinion as a board around inclusion. And I would really love to find more ways that we as a board can be hosting events where we can come together and hang out with you all. I know I’ve really wanted to do that this year, and just my day-job has like taken up all my time, but I think more engagement between the board and the community is something that I know I would, I would love to be able to create more room for, and I think this livestream is a step in that direction, and it’s, you know, unfortunate maybe that this step is happening in the middle of a big controversy, but I hope that there can be more ways that you all feel like you can be in conversation with us.

 

Yasmin: Yeah. I mean, I know that some people are like ‘oh well you aren’t actually on the forums that often, like, how are you engaging with the community?’ I mean, I personally, I have 50 messages to answer just from yesterday (laughs), so I feel like I engage with the community quite a lot. I just don’t have the time to also, you know, get too deeply involved in conversations on the forums as well as across all my other social media and emails and everything. But we’re definitely, we’re always keeping an eye on things, we’re always like people feed things back to us. So we’re not as far as you probably might think we are. I’m seeing some people asking about the project team? And I guess what our relationship with the project team is, or the social media team or whatever.

 

DJ: Our relationship is that we communicate with them about what they’re working on and see if we can support it when we can. I think that the, the only keys that we really hold are to, like the technical infrastructure of the site which we mostly use those keys to keep it up and running, to the, to a bank account which basically has enough money to keep AVEN’s servers running, that we occasionally run fund-raisers around, and then to the AVEN brand itself. So if something’s going to be officially endorsed as AVEN then we as a board decide on that. But most other projects, even like, I am involved, personally, in some different legal advocacy that impacts ace people and ace families. Most of that, most of the other work that we do, we do as individuals as opposed to as board members. And then we sort of lean on the board to endorse things or help things including things the project team is doing when it’s appropriate.

 

Yasmin: I think, I thought there was a few, a few more slido comments that I thought were interesting (laughs). Someone asks um is…

 

DJ: um and… I wanna pause real quickly Yasmin. Joshua, our fantastic interpreter, we have contracted you for one hour.

 

Yasmin: Oh.

 

DJ: I don’t know if you are open to staying for another few minutes? Uhmm or if? Okay. Awesome.

 

Yasmin: Okay. It used (unintelligible).. way more than I thought.

 

DJ: I’m happy that… Uh and uh. Yeah.

 

Yasmin: Two more that I thought would be good to touch on, someone asked ‘is asexuality a spectrum or umbrella, or an orientation? Or both?’ And I would say it’s both. It is a spectrum… although even when you say sexual orientation, like I’ve always said like, that I personally, I don’t have a sexual orientation. I have a sexuality that isn’t oriented anywhere, especially since I don’t experience sensual attraction, or like my aesthetic attraction or platonic attraction doesn’t go in any particular direction. So it, but then I guess in terms of categorizing things as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, those are considered sexual orientations so in that sense you could consider it a sexual orientation in the same way as you say black is a colour even though it’s like an absence of colour. (laughs) And zero is a number even though it represents nothing. But then it could also be a spectrum and an orientation at the same time. My opinion. And then overlap with other orientations too. ¯\_()_/¯

 

DJ: I wanna echo the love in the comments for Joshua for staying on another few minutes. (both laugh) Um. Any, any other slido comments? Slido questions? Yasmin, that you want to make sure we answer?

 

Yasmin: Oh. Yeah. There’s one more which I think kind of echoes something that I think is probably reflective of how people think AVEN’s run compared to how it actually is, which is pretty much asking ‘what type of people is this marketing change intended to appeal to?’ (both laugh) ‘Is it low libido people who don’t currently identify as ace or younger people etc?’ Who’s our marketing targeting? (laughs)

 

DJ: Oh man. Um. We’re not that cool y’all. (both laugh)

 

Yasmin: We’re not Adidas or something. It’s not so much a marketing thing. We’re not amazon.

 

DJ: This is, this is intended to more accurately reflect the population of people who identify as asexual. We recognize that in doing this it’s gonna be controversial. That, that may like, there will be some people and a lot of you I’m sure listening who will trust us less because of this, and it is in alignment with our core values and the, I would say core values on which AVEN was built. So like, this is about us doing what we believe is right, not us trying to appeal to some external population.

 

Yasmin: Yeah I think it’s all about we’re trying to promote a culture on AVEN that is more inclusive and that does serve you know everyone who needs it. It’s not just, this isn’t the only like inclusion based thing that like we discuss or are talking about. You know, we’re always working on being more inclusive in terms of accessibility, in terms of race and ethnicity. Like there’s a whole bunch of other things that like, we’re trying to like promote in the forums, to make things like more inclusive. This is just one that relates to the definition on the homepage and hopefully will make it a bit more of an inclusive place and represent the core values more. But it’s not marketing. It’s not like you change the definition and people throw money at us. (both laugh) In reality it doesn’t really work that way, um. So no it’s not like some kind of like media seeking, you know, big press moment. It’s literally just adding a word onto the homepage.

 

DJ: Um. Cool so is um. I think at least that covers the questions that I really wanted to cover. And I know we’re a little bit over time. Yasmin is there anything else that you want to make sure we talk about?

 

Yasmin: Um no, I feel like we covered most of the kind of representative like most upvoted slido comments. I think we covered the themes that were in the thread. Hopefully! For you guys, we’ve answered some of your questions or at least gave you some insight into what was going on behind the scenes or what we’re thinking of or aiming for, hopefully? (laughs)

 

DJ: Yeah and I think I’ll just conclude by saying like, I respect the people who are pushing back against this decision. And I thank you for articulating the reasons why you’re pushing back so clearly and I hope that you can see the ways in which there is a, I hope you can see and understand the value that we are choosing to prioritize here. Even if that’s not a value that you would choose to prioritize. And I also hope that this can be a moment for us to talk about the really important role that inclusion, and the really important role that having identity supporting people in exploring the identities that are right for them can play in AVEN.

 

Yasmin: Yeah I think that even like, I think all the criticism and everything, I think is all coming a place of love in its own way. It’s all coming from looking out for our community and trying to do what’s best for the community. I think everyone’s kind of coming from the same place even if there are like disagreements. So I think as long as we can just continue to connect on that level, in a sense we’re all just trying to do something that makes everybody feel you know included and loved and comfortable, then I think this is just a little, is just a lil blip, and I’m sure that in hindsight it won’t seem like nearly that much of (laughs) a big deal. It’s just at the moment there’s traction around it. I think it’s all coming from a place of love. I don’t think anything is intentionally malicious. I’m sure none of you guys are being intentionally malicious. We’re not either. We’re just all trying to do what’s best for the community and keep AVEN a happy inclusive representative and helpful place I think.

 

DJ: Awesome, so with that I want, uh, I’m gonna do a round of applause for our interpreter Joshua, thank you so much for helping us today and thanks everyone for joining and for submitting your questions on the slido and comments on the thread.

 

 

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