Asexuality: Just How Queer Is It?

Published: JUNE 3, 2024
Some people feel sexual attraction and others don’t feel sexual attraction. Having terms for every stop along the spectrums of sexual desire and attraction normalizes the fact that there is no normal when it comes to sexuality.

There's long been a debate over whether there should be an A for asexual in the LGBTQIA+ acronym that's used to identify the queer community.  Asexuality is defined as not experiencing sexual attraction. In the world of academia, it's defined by some sex researchers as a sexual orientation, and therefore, makes sense that it would be included. 


Yet, there are those in the queer community who question the queerness of asexuality. What about all the people heterosexual and cisgender asexual folks? How can they be considered part of the queer community? Although asexual people do experience discrimination in relationships and other parts of their lives, they are not experiencing the same sort of systemic oppression experienced by many visibly gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and intersex people. Is putting asexuality under the same queer umbrella somehow minimizing the gravity of that oppression?

What about those who identify as demisexual — those who only experience sexual attraction to someone they have an emotional bond with? Many people feel the need to have an emotional connection before they can develop a sexual connection, but many don't feel the need to name it as a specific sexuality or identity. So, is demisexual queer as well? What experiences of attraction, or lack thereof, "count" as a sexuality or identity?

How culture shapes sexuality and identity

Thinking about folks who identify as demisexual made me reflect on how gender roles play into this conversation as well. There is an old saying about heterosexual relationships that men want sex to feel close to their partner, and women need to feel close to their partner to want sex. Whether or not there is any biological component to this, there is certainly a sociological explanation.


We know that in many cultures around the world, women and men are socialized differently when it comes to sex. Men are expected to be ready for sex and want it at all times, and women are expected to be looking for that perfect man for a partner so they can explore their sexuality in the context of a relationship. Basically, women are expected to be demisexual, and men are not.

Read More: Men (and Their Sexuality) Aren’t ‘Simple,’ and Here’s Why We Need to Stop Saying This

Men who don’t fit that stereotype are shamed as not virile or manly enough and women who go outside of it are shamed as whores. This is an essential part of the cisheteronormative patriarchal system. But that cisheteronormative patriarchal system, which has dominated our culture for so long, is being challenged in many parts of the world.

Is the growing number of identifiers for sexuality just another way people are challenging that system? And if so, are those identifiers legitimate?


A crash course in asexuality and queerness

Of course, to truly understand this nuanced debate, I needed to educate myself about why people believe asexuality is just as queer as any of the other sexualities under the queer umbrella. So, I reached out to asexuality expert, Certified Sexuality Educator, Aubri Lancaster

“The A is for Asexual, Aromantic, and Agender. It's shared. These identities are important parts of the queer spectrum because people need to know that not experiencing sexual attraction, romantic attraction, or gender also queers social norms and power structures.”

I asked Lancaster for more clarification. Is there something inherently queer about identifying as asexual? She explained that refusing compulsory sexuality, the societal pressure to be heterosexual because it's the "norm," connects asexuality to queerness. She references the book Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen. Chen asserts that by subverting and resisting cisheteronormativity, asexuality becomes a form of queerness. 


Lancaster also shared that there's evidence of asexual people being part of LGBTQIA+ spaces since the 1970s. And the vast majority of asexual people today consider themselves to be part of the queer community.

The 2017 and 2018 Asexual Community Surveys surveyed over 25,000 and found that almost 2/3 of respondents considered themselves queer. About one in six were questioning or unsure of whether the label queer was right for them. There does seem to be quite a bit of overlap with the queer and asexual, or ace communities, as they are sometimes called. The past 20 years have seen a growing amount of research on asexuality, and this research is documenting that more people, particularly young people, are identifying as ace. 

So, the majority of asexual folks consider themselves queer, and the queer community has, at least somewhat, embraced asexual folks for decades. But what does the research say about asexuality?


Sex researchers Dr. Morag Yule, Dr. Lori Brotto, and Dr. Boris Gorzalka of the University of British Columbia, did a review of the literature on asexuality and published their findings in 2017. There was a time when asexuality was seen as a sexual dysfunction. It was thought that people who identified as asexual were incapable of sexual arousal, but research by Yule, Brotto, and others shows this is not the case. Asexual people are capable of physiological sexual arousal. They just don’t have feelings of sexual attraction alongside the arousal. 

After reviewing the research, these researchers concluded that asexuality is best “thought of as a sexual orientation and that asexuality as an identity and a community is an important component of the asexual experience," and describe it as a normal variation of human sexuality.

But what is normal sexuality anyway?

I asked Lancaster, if asexual is included in the queer community, then why not hypersexual – those who desire lots of sex? She explained that the asexual spectrum ranges from allosexual – those who desire sex – to asexual, not hypersexual to asexual, as I was imagining the spectrum. 


Of course, this raised the question, do we need a term like allosexual when desiring sex is just "the norm?" Rather than saying we have “normal” people and then we have the asexuals, having terms that are nonjudgmental, allows space for a neutral spectrum to exist. Some people desire sex, and some don’t desire sex. Some people feel sexual attraction and others don’t feel sexual attraction. Having terms for every stop along the spectrums of sexual desire and attraction normalizes the fact that there is no normal when it comes to sexuality.

Lancaster had some additional thoughts on my question about hypersexuality. 

“I think we have yet to see a wider emergence of identity terms for the allosexual parts of the sexuality spectrum. Western science loves to pathologize what it sees as 'excess' including the excesses of 'too much' AND 'too little.' I think that would definitely queer the spectrum to break it into even more fractals of language, positionality, and defiance of the idea that there is truly any singular ‘normal.’”

Lancaster went on to say, “We need to also be careful of not using a definition of hypersexual that has been placed upon some people as a means to hypersexualize them just as asexual has historically been placed upon people to desexualize them. This is why the Ace Community uses the language of asexual to allosexual rather than asexual to hypersexual."

As a sex educator and counselor, I find this exciting and agree that moving away from defining sexuality based on what is “normal” is where I hope society is headed. Dictating what is considered normal and what is considered deviant is just another way of controlling society, through controlling people's sexuality.

At the same time, a sex-negative society places such a high value on being “normal” that this is what people aspire to. My work as a sex educator and counselor has taught me that a lot of people do want to hear that they're "normal." So, how can we honor the value of "normal" while also rejecting the idea that people must conform to "normal?"

Evolving ideas of gender identity shape sexuality

To add yet another layer, Lancaster brought up how gender plays into the evolving conversation about sexuality and queerness.

"As more language for the vastness of gender emerges, gendered [sexual] orientation language may become less useful, and language that addresses intensity, circumstance, and type of attraction may be more useful. So yea, maybe hypersexual will be a way to Queer the whole spectrum further at some point!”

Again, I find this expansive perspective exciting. I agree that the vastness of gender is changing the way we view and experience sexuality. For example, though non-binary people have always existed, the increasing number of out non-binary people has initiated a wider conversation about sexuality that isn't bound by gender. What does it mean to be lesbian or gay or straight if there is no such thing as gender?  

There is interesting research to back this idea of a more dynamic view of sexual identities. Sari van Anders is a sexuality researcher based in Canada. Her Sexual Configurations Theory (SCT) offers a multi-dimensional framework to define sexuality as more than just sexual orientation, which is based on gendered attraction and gender identity. SCT embraces the perspective of feminist and queer studies and is developed from lived experiences of people within the so-called "sexual minorities."

There is, of course, much resistance to this expansion as well. So, we are struggling as a society between those who see the beauty and naturalness of vastness within sexuality and gender and those who would label that vastness deviant.

So, is asexuality queer or not?

Clearly, in the field of sexuality research and academia, the concept of sexual orientation or what it means to be queer is becoming broader. For many in the queer community, especially youth, these broadening definitions are noticeable as well. We are changing the way we think about sexual and romantic attraction so that attraction of all kinds is about more than gender. 

For the final word on the subject, I reached out to Michelle Renee, a cuddlist and surrogate partner, who identifies on her website as cis, queer, and a sex-favorable asexual.

According to Michelle, a definition of queer is “denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms. So in short, queer is outside the heterosexual normal. As a cis woman, society says I should be sexually attracted to men. I’m not. I’m not sexually attracted to anyone. I don’t get to the sex via sexual attraction. I get to sex via sensual attraction that can potentially spark sexual desire.”

Read More: Am I Queer Enough?

In the end, I don’t personally disagree with any of the perspectives I explored. We are just human and for some of us, feelings of desire and attraction, if they exist at all, depend on context and other factors.

Not everyone will feel the need to name every feeling and experience related to that, and that is okay. Yet, many strongly feel the need to name their experiences and have them recognized as legitimate by the world at large, and that's okay, too.

As humans, we get to be curious about this and find ways to define ourselves, and challenge the limitations imposed on us by societal norms. The queer community continues to evolve as does our understanding of what it means to be asexual. 

Does that make asexuality queer? Like so much about being queer, the answer is up to you.

For more information on asexuality, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) website.

For more info on Aubri Lancaster’s work check out her website.

Remi Newman

Remi Newman, MA, is a sex educator, counselor and writer with over 20 years of experience in the field of sexuality. She currently works as an STI educator and counselor in Northern California. She received her master’s degree in sex education from NYU.

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