Five chairs were arranged into a circle forming an intimate safe space for discussion, where participants shared insight into their lives at the asexuality panel held on March 22.
“Getting people to understand that you’re queer and asexual is like talking to a brick wall sometimes,” said Morgan Wall, a first-year community and justice services student who is on the autism spectrum.
It was one of the revealing statements made at the discussion group.
Mental health, relationships, sexuality, variations of asexuality and combinations of other sexual orientations were discussed during the panel, as well as the stigma surrounding them.
Conversely, there is a lot of stigma around people who are neurodivergent – those who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, have some kind of developmental disorder, or learning disability.
Folks who have a developmental disability or suffer from other mental health issues are often assumed as asexual, when this is not often the case. In turn, they do not receive proper sexual education.
“From personal experience, I can tell you that you can be kicked out of a sex ed class for having a developmental disability,” said Wall.
This means that there are people who are sexual beings without education on safe sex.
“Asexuality is an interesting topic to talk about because our society ignores it,” said Talia Johnson, the discussion group leader for the panel.
Johnson is a transgender woman, currently studying at St. Paul’s University, working to get into a counselling program.
Asexuality is a highly individual umbrella term used to describe a sexual orientation where individuals have a low, or absent interest in sexual activity or attraction to anyone.
It is often underrepresented and branded negatively.
According to Johnson, a big part of the problem is hyper-sexuality in our society.
“There’s a disconnect because sex is seen as the norm,” she said. “And when you don’t want that, there’s automatically something wrong with you.”
Additional stigma surrounding asexuality is that it’s perceived as one-dimensional; it’s difficult to reconcile someone’s asexuality with their identity of being gender queer or pansexual – meaning you don’t conform to gender binaries when it comes to choosing your partner (s).
Four students arrived for the panel. Some are part of the Queer Students Alliance, and others were looking for a place to make connections, share stories and develop a community.
The group agreed that while Algonquin has made progress integrating the QSA, there are still a lot of steps to take for it to truly be considered a safe space.