Asexual Hate Crime Study: “I don’t know if this counts but...” ft. Kate Wood
“I don’t know if this counts but…” This week, we talk to Kate Wood about the findings from 1600 responses to the Asexual Lived Experiences Survey 2021, including both quantitative data and the deeply personal stories sent in by survivors of abuse and violence.
- “I don’t know if this counts but…” Asexual Lived Experiences Survey 2021: Final Report
- Ace & Aro Collective
- Follow Kate on Twitter
Courtney: Hello everyone, and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and today we have a special guest on the podcast. We’re very excited to have this conversation. We can’t wait to get into it, so we’re just going to dive right in.
Courtney: Please introduce yourself to the listeners.
Kate: Hi, I’m Kate Wood. I’m [clears throat] I’m speaking with my very deep, sexy COVID voice. And–
Courtney: Oh no…
Kate: I am the research director of the The Ace And Aro Collective in Australia, and I have written a very long, 200 words, study into acephobic discrimination, violence, and oppression. It’s called “I don’t know if this counts, but.” We surveyed 1600 respondents from 57-ish countries, and this has taken me two years to write up the results of this survey. And about me, I’m just an Australian asexual person. I’m also on the aromantic spectrum. And the reason that I have gone into the hobby of researching acephobic violence is because I am myself a survivor of corrective sexual assault. And I guess that’s why the subject first started to interest me about four years ago. Because there wasn’t a lot of research into that subject, so I decided to start producing the research myself.
Courtney: And that is so commendable. And we are so excited to talk to you about that. And well– Maybe excited is the wrong word because clearly we’re talking about oppression, we’re talking about violence, so it’s not a happy subject. But when you say that there isn’t a lot of research out there, that really really resonates with me. Because I am definitely a geek for the numbers, for the survey, so I am interested in really getting into the nitty-gritty of your research here.
Courtney: And before we do dive in, because I also am a survivor of sexual assault and I know that there is still – in certain pockets of the Ace community – this stigma around that. And there’s sort of, “Well, can you really call yourself asexual?” Or– Or, “Maybe it was caused by this.”
Courtney: And I know that that’s something that you in your personal work have spoken about a lot. So I’d just like to hear, sort of in your words, what your sort of experience has been with that, and what– what you would like to put out to those people who might think those negative thoughts.
Kate: Well, while my research has focused primarily on people who were sexually assaulted because they are asexual, and – which is my experience – not the other way around, which is people who became asexual because they were sexually assaulted. But my opinion is that people who are asexual because of a sexual assault, or because of any trauma, are 100% valid. They are completely asexual, they belong in our community, they are part of that community and they should be welcomed and included. Everybody who is asexual, or everybody who identifies as asexual, in my opinion, regardless of the reason why they identify. You know, whether it be because of a hormonal disorder or because of medication or because they have been sexually assaulted, if they do not experience sexual attraction – or if they experienced little to no sexual attraction – that’s the only part, that’s the definition. There’s nothing in the definition that says, “because of this or because of that.” Or, “unless it’s because of this.” So they’re part of the community in my opinion, and should be welcomed into the community, and their experience should be considered. Their experience should be considered valuable and just part of the, you know, rich experience of our whole community.
Courtney: Hear, hear. Absolutely. And I’ve also noticed that there seems to be sort of a strong overlap in the way those types of people who would say, “Well, your asexuality isn’t valid,” it always kind of comes back to like, “Oh, well if it can be cured, if it can be fixed.” And it gets into such muddy waters. Because I hear sort of the same rhetoric on the side of whether it was a trauma or sexual assault, and also on the disability side, “Well, are you asexual because of a disability?” And I fully agree with you. It does not matter. If someone is ace and identifies as Ace, they are ace.
Kate: If it can be cured– cured or changed or altered, that doesn’t matter because sexuality is fluid anyway. And some people who have been asexual in the past become not asexual through who knows what reason. So I don’t think that– that washes as an argument at all. I think people’s sexuality can and does change. So if the reason that it does change is trauma, or medication, or hormonal reasons, or a disability, then that’s the reason. In the end it doesn’t mean that they weren’t asexual at the time that they were, and doesn’t mean that they aren’t the new sexuality that they are afterwards.
Courtney: Oh absolutely. I think that’s one of the biggest disservices that the “Born This Way” narrative has given to truly the entirety of the Queer community. But I think the ace and aro communities in particular are still in such a weird place where people are trying to find, you know, what’s the reason, what’s the cure, this isn’t real, this is wrong, it should be fixed. Which also gets into matters of conversion therapy, which we are definitely going to cover as we get into your study here.
Courtney: So as we start to move forward, I do want to just sort of ask you a little bit about your approach and your process. Because you would – correct me if I’m wrong – not consider yourself a traditional academic?
Kate: Yeah, that’s right. So I’m actually studying my masters at the moment, but not in a subject that’s anywhere even close to this. So, I’m not an academic. And that– It’s been– it’s been pointed out to me before that I’m not an academic and therefore the work that I do is– is less valuable, it doesn’t have any academic rigor. But our report has been put out by a legitimate nonprofit organization. And that kind of research is put out all the time. Just because you haven’t heard of our nonprofit doesn’t mean that the work we put out isn’t valid. But also I found that, okay, if I’m not an academic that’s giving me a little bit more freedom. So I was able to write the report in a way that, although it is 200 pages long, it does make it a little bit more accessible for people to read. I didn’t have to– I didn’t have to write in any kind of academic language, which I always find difficult to read with my neurological injury. So yeah, I just thought like, if I’m not an academic and you’re going to point out how I’m not an academic all the time, then I’m not going to write like one. And I think that that means it makes it easier for the people who this report is about to actually read about themselves.
Royce: There are a lot of accessibility issues in all kinds of both academic and legal writing. I wish methods of writing were taught more heavily in academic circles that would actually make them more accessible to the– the widespread public.
Kate: Yeah. And I have always found that it’s just an unnecessary amount of, “It has to be done this way, because this is the way it’s always been done.” And so I felt, “Well, I’m not going to do it that way.” You know? Anyone who doesn’t respect me because I’m not an academic is never going to, so, why not just write the way I write.
Courtney: Oh, absolutely. And there is definitely something to be said as well for in-community activism, and research, and study, and– Because you– you are a member of the Ace community, you have your own unique sets of lived experiences that no doubt helped shape the way you approach things, which I think is very valuable. And I do wish there was more, I guess, sort of collaboration between traditional academics and the communities that they are actually studying. Because it seems to me like every time there is a non-ace academic who puts something out, I’m always of two minds. Because I’m very grateful that they are– Well, I’m grateful when they approached it respectfully and when they are publishing, because we do need to have these things, you know, in all areas of the world, and even in Academia. But sometimes some things are presented as, like, “I found this miraculous, surprising thing in my research.” And me, as an ace who– most of my friends are ace and I’ve interacted with hundreds of aces over the years, it’s like, “That was kind of just common knowledge to me, because that’s just– that’s just my friends. That’s just my community.” So–
Courtney: So, I think it’s great that you are an ace and that you are putting in the time to do the proper research here. And you’re right, this is much more accessible to read than the average academic paper. Which I believe– Are we going to be able to share this out to our listeners, and put it in our show notes and everything, for everyone to read along with us if they’d like?
Kate: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Courtney: Perfect. Then we will have all of that in the regular places for those of you listening now.
Courtney: I suppose– Here’s my first question, here’s what I really really want to know, sort of a two-part question, if you will. Because I’m sure that as an ace who is a survivor of sexual trauma, I’m sure when you go in to study these sorts of things, you do expect to see some things that maybe the average person who’s ignorant of ace issues maybe wouldn’t. So I would like to know what you found most surprising in this process, that you were maybe not expecting that you found. And then as a secondary question, I’d like to ask, what do you think would be most surprising to someone who’s completely ignorant of the ace community and ace issues?
Kate: What I found surprising was when I got to look at the numbers for intimate partner violence. That was really hard to get a meaningful and useful number out of, which I explain why in the report. It’s hard to compare our numbers to the general community because so many asexual people don’t enter into relationships. So, yeah, it’s hard to make a comparison there. But I was surprised by how many asexual people experience intimate partner violence. And I was also surprised to find a very clear pattern in how intimate partner violence is experienced by asexual people.
Kate: And what I think would be most surprising to someone else… I would probably say the same thing again. And I say that because I attended the human rights conference for World Pride recently and I read out some of my numbers there. So I read out some of the figures for the most important things I had, and it was extremely gratifying to get an audible gasp from the audience. And when I read out that number for the percentage of ace people who had experienced intimate partner violence, I heard somebody audibly say, “Oh my God.” So I would say, that’s probably what someone would find most surprising. But they’re surprised by the high number of sexual violence figures as well.
Courtney: Well then let’s– let’s dig into that a little bit first. What– what are some of those sort of shocking figures and the pattern that you saw as it emerged.
Kate: So, with intimate partner violence, I had to come up with a way of looking at the numbers that was– what I felt was– skeptic proof is what I called it because I couldn’t name it after a specific person. So using those numbers, which is people who I feel like nobody could deny that this was genuine intimate partner violence. Because some people they only tick the boxes for things like the acephobic intimate partner violence, which in my opinion does count, but I would say there are people who would say it does not count. So, I didn’t use those in the figures. I only use the people that no one would deny it. And for that, I would say the figure that we will use is that roughly 39% of those respondents who have ever been in a relationship have experienced intimate partner violence. And how I got to that figure I explain in the report.
Kate: So that’s– that’s high and that is deeply, deeply upsetting. And in the majority of cases there, there is: 87.87% the partner was allosexual. [Courtney ums thoughtfully] With a further almost three percent, it’s happened to the person more than once, and in at least one of the cases the partner was allosexual.
Kate: So we’re looking at a 90% of the time this is an allosexual partner being abusive towards an asexual partner.
Courtney: That is a startling figure. That is disgusting.
Kate: Statistically, I guess, we would expect most of the time the partner to be non-asexual, but yeah, I’m just shocked by– by how frequent that is. And what else we’re finding is that sexual violence is very, very high in– So people who are experiencing intimate partner violence, the level of sexual violence is very high. I don’t know what is the normal level, but I understand from experts that it is very high: 87.64% of respondents had experienced some form of sexual violence from the partner. Which is that– I mean, that’s a lot. Including– So we have– we have surveyed: experience of verbal pressure from their partner, if they experienced violent coercion, if they experienced physical force. And 22% had experienced physical force from an intimate partner. But what we also asked was, “I cannot say exactly in what way I was pressured or forced, but I feel as if my partner did sexually assault me.” And we added that because of personal experiences of people who were writing the survey questions, and we just felt like that’s an experience that we know some people have had so we should add it. [Courtney ums in agreement] And we got a response of 30% of respondents who had been in intimate partner– 30% of respondents who had been in a violent relationship, said yes to that question. So they had that feeling but they could not describe it. Which I find very upsetting, but also very interesting.
Kate: So, we’re seeing a lot of sexual violence in these relationships. So, we were asking about physical violence, sexual violence, coercive control behaviors. And coercive control is doing things like controlling the finances of your partner by taking away their money, or controlling their access to money. Things like controlling what a person can wear, who they can talk to, what they can eat, isolating them from their family, that kind of behavior. And the fourth thing we asked about was acephobic specific behaviors: doing things like blaming the asexuality for other problems in the relationship, like commonly, cheating is because of the asexuality, that kind of thing.
Kate: And what– Another thing that I found was that it’s very common for the acephobic behaviors to happen, but it’s not that common for the acephobic behaviors to be the primary form of abuse. So based on not just the quantitative data, but also on all of the stories that people said, the first person accounts, it seems to me that very frequently the partner is abusive. And the thing about abusive people is that they will use whatever they have available as a form of abuse. And so if that person happens to be asexual, then use the asexuality. So, yeah, if asexuality is there, that’s what the abuser will use. And that is very common.
Kate: So one reason why the numbers could be so high is because asexual people already have experienced a lot of trauma. And we know that the rate of intimate partner violence is very high for bisexual people, and they have also experienced previously– they have high rates of other kinds of trauma. And the thing about abusive people is that they are very good at finding somebody who is already vulnerable. So, a reason that the numbers could be so high is because there is already trauma there, there is already vulnerability there, and an abusive person has a way of sensing that and finding– I don’t want to say finding a victim, but that’s sort of what they do. They find someone who is vulnerable to being abused and using that against them. So I think one of the reasons why this could be so high is the same reason it can be quite so high in the bisexual community.
Courtney: Yeah, that absolutely makes sense as well. And in speaking of some of the, for example, like corrective rape, things of that nature, normally the– I guess, sort of the mainstream dialogue about this kind of violence in the queer community is normally like, “Oh well, you know, lesbians will experience corrective rape, or bi people will be more prone to abuse.” But very rarely do I actually see people discuss this in an ace context. And I think you’re right that the average person would be surprised at these figures. It was even really not too long ago, there was quite a large video circulating that several of our listeners sent us – we’d watched it already anyway – that was claiming that aces don’t face corrective rape and that they don’t face conversion therapy. And just said outright that they don’t experience these things.
Courtney: And I was like, “What aces have you been speaking to?” Because I personally know people, and I personally have, you know, been a victim of some of these things as well.
Kate: Yeah, yeah, I would strongly disagree. And I had many accounts, many of the personal accounts that were sent in, they straight up said that their partner had used corrective rape against them. So I mean, I think if the person is saying, “Well, my partner said that they would fix me, that they would cure me.” I mean, what are we calling that? How can that be called anything else? They were there, they heard what the perpetrator said. That’s corrective.
Kate: One thing I find quite concerning about this as well is the number of young– especially young men, who appear to not be aware that they have the right to say no. So women were more likely to be aware that what they had experienced was rape, but men did not. They just knew that they didn’t want what had happened, but they were less likely to actually know the word for it.
Kate: Yeah, they just– I don’t know what sex ed is teaching kids, it’s bad. I know that they’re not teaching them a lot, but yeah, I’m concerned by the number of young men who don’t appear to be aware that they have the right to say no to their girlfriend. And it was usually a girlfriend in the stories.
Courtney: Yeah. That’s really, really good and important to point out as well. Because I have in– in sort of trying to open a dialogue with these folks who say, you know, “Aces don’t face these things,” you know, Aces don’t face corrective rape, they don’t face conversion therapy, in trying to sort of challenge that, the sort of talking point that I find most people will devolve to is like, “Oh, well you know, if you experienced it it’s because you’re a woman, it’s not because you’re asexual.” Like, it’s just, you know, good old-fashioned, you know, patriarchy.
Courtney: And so they’ll try to sort of divert away from the ace identity.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. But in fact, not for intimate partner violence but certainly for sexual violence, our survey actually had men more likely to have experienced it than women.
Kate: Yeah. So that is– that was a very unexpected result. Non-binary people, just like massively higher but–
Courtney: Oh, of course…
Kate: Went: non-binary, men, women. Yeah so, that was an unexpected result. And [?] with partner violence the women were affected more than men, but the difference was not as significant as it is in the general population, nowhere near.
Courtney: Wow. I– I just don’t even have any words for that. That’s– that’s something that more people need to know about. And then that’s why I’m so glad that we have you on and that we’re going to be able to help, hopefully, get more eyes on your findings here. Because it’s so troubling. But it’s also very surprising. And it seems to me that this is– could be a direct counter to all those arguments that we consistently hear, time and time again.
Kate: Yeah, yeah.
Courtney: That does sort of make me wonder, did you find at all – because I believe, was that figure about 30% didn’t really have words for it but something felt wrong – was there at all a gender difference in the response to that that you found?
Kate: There probably was, but I would have to look up what it was, I didn’t report it in the report.
Kate: But I wouldn’t have the data for it. Yeah.
Courtney: ’Cause, yeah, it seems to me – and this is pure speculation, of course – but it would seem that if there was a much higher percentage of men who weren’t aware of their ability to say no in those situations, perhaps there was also a lack of sort of access to the vocabulary to describe what those feelings were, after said event.
Kate: Yeah, I would think so, yes. Oh, that’s one more thing that I think is important to talk about intimate partner violence, something that was not asked about, but I think is– it was quite common in the– in the qualitative responses that we got. Is the phenomenon where the abusive partner would become unpleasant to live with if the asexual partner wouldn’t have sex with them. So they would just be– they wouldn’t do anything specifically abusive, they would just be standoffish… But one person, you know, describing it as a child-like drop, not talking to their partner, being just generally unpleasant and difficult to deal with. So– Until the asexual partner initiated sex, so this asexual person begins to feel like they’re having to initiate their own rape, essentially: they don’t want to do it, they are very uncomfortable with it, they are repulsed by sex but they can’t live with their partner’s behavior anymore, so they have to initiate sex. And we had this story told time, and time, and time again of partners doing this.
Royce: That sounds like, instead of overtly aggressive or overtly violent behavior, it’s just passive aggressive behavior towards the same end.
Kate: Yeah, yeah, exactly. But yeah, the people who are experiencing this, and I guess they’re ticking that box, you know, “I don’t I feel like I was coerced, but I don’t know how to describe it,” and it really is– is a real kind of mindfuck. Because you didn’t want to have sex and you really felt like you were forced to but I can’t, I mean, you can’t report that, can you? You can’t say that your partner assaulted you if you initiated the sex, but you absolutely didn’t want to have sex. So, I mean, what are we calling this? But it’s definitely something that, you know, is not an isolated incident because I received, I’d say– I’d say at least a dozen stories where this was the case.
Courtney: And that’s– What’s so insidious about that is that they’re very much as like, Royce, you said, passive-aggressive. There’s definitely a change in the behavior. There is a level of manipulation that is at play here on an individual level. But from how I see it, it’s sort of an individual manipulation that’s almost reinforced by broader society. Because just the– the constant ace erasure, the acephobia, the sort of things that society just always either passively or actively tells us as aces is that this is something you should want, this is something you should do, this is something all, you know, quote, “normal people” do. So you’re sort of just getting it at a larger scale and on a smaller intimate scale. And I… I don’t like it!
Kate: Yeah. I mean you’re thinking in your head, well, this is kind of your fault, because you should be having sex, you know? They have– they have– they have the right to be upset because you’re not, you know, and you could be getting this from friends, from your parents, from– from whoever, you know, when you– when you talk about the problem. So yeah, it’s a really– it’s a really complicated situation to be in that one. And really hard, yeah. But in my opinion, you know, that’s– I feel that if that has happened to you, then you have absolutely experienced a form of sexual assault, even if you can’t find the right words to describe it, and even if, you know, you could never report it to anybody as an assault. In my mind that feels like one, and I believe you, and I think that’s valid.
Royce: Yeah, I’d agree with that. It’s still– it’s definitely coercion, but it’s so abstract that it kind of gives the person involved this sort of illusion of consent. Because they made the choice, but they were still pressured into the choice.
Kate: Yeah, and there’s a real plausible deniability for the perpetrator of that. But yeah, I think it counts and I believe– I believe anybody who’s experienced this. And I– I think that you have the right to say that you have been assaulted, you have been coerced.
Courtney: Now, did your study– were you able to identify, or were you even looking for I suppose, people who had maybe experienced multiple instances of sexual violence, or even different types of sexual violence across the span of their life? Because one thing that has been odd, just sort of in my personal experience– and this is going to be a long enough episode, I won’t get into details now, but I have experienced multiple different completely separate, seemingly isolated, instances of sexual violence, and it got to a point where I didn’t literally think this, but it was like, “What? Is it me?” Like, what is it? This seems abnormal. And I’m wondering if there are other aces out there who have a similar experience.
Kate: Yeah. Well, I did a case study where I picked one person at random from the entire list and looked at them over the entire course of all of the questions – and I can easily do this for other people, and I think that I will – but it enabled me to just look at the whole of somebody’s life and all of the things they’d experienced. And you can kind of see when you do that, when you get a whole life experience, you can kind of see how things, I guess, relate to each other and how over time, maybe they don’t necessarily all– you know, there’s not necessarily a cause and effect there, but you can see how a person’s different experiences kind of– kind of connect to each other over the course of an entire life.
Kate: So this person for example, when they were very young, they said that they– they went to see a doctor– And yeah, when they’re in their late teens, they went to a doctor, who– I won’t read this aloud because it’s very shocking, but they went to see a doctor who did something that was one of the– one of the worst health care stories, possibly the worst health care story that I received in the entire survey. So they went to see a doctor and went through a horrific experience. And then, you know, that’s– that’s when they’re very young, but that experience obviously is– you know, this is when they’re young and trying to have sex or trying to understand who they are, but that horrific experience, that’s made them even more sex repulsed, you know? So when they then get into relationships, they’re not willing to have sex. So that’s affecting what’s happening with their relationship. And it’s also, this incident with a doctor, that’s going to affect their self-esteem.
Kate: That’s– that’s a traumatic experience, and abusers do sort of latch on to people who’ve had traumatic experiences. So, you know, they’ve ended up in abusive relationship, and people who are– who have been in one abusive relationship are more likely to end up in a second abusive relationship, so that– that’s happened here as well. So you can kind of see over the course of their life, all of the things that have– that have happened to them, and how, you know, how it’s gone from– from one thing to another. You can look at the microaggressions they’ve experienced. So, you know, they’ve– I noticed straight away when I was looking at their microaggressions, they were one of the only people I’d seen who had experienced – what was it – being told that they are asexual because they are unattractive, or similar, which was a very common one. But they were told that by a romantic or sexual partner, and that straight away, like my alarm just lit up and I was like, “Okay, they’ve been in an abusive relationship.” Because most people, they don’t take romantic or sexual partner for that column.
Kate: So yeah, you can kind of see looking at them how one thing comes to another, and I would like to do maybe a follow-up that does quite a few of these, so we can look at them for more than one person and see how– how these things happen.
Courtney: Yeah, I think that would be incredibly fascinating. And I definitely do want to talk about doctors as well, because you have an entire section here on Healthcare stories. And since we did sort of start talking in the direction of conversion therapy, I first want to ask by– or I want to start by asking what your opinion, or for the purposes of the survey, what you consider to be conversion therapy. Because there are some people who have a very, very narrow view, and they think it’s just the Christian camps that you get sent to, and that’s it, it’s nothing else. I personally think it’s a lot wider than that. And some people will even say that– some people will even consider corrective sexual assault to be a form of conversion therapy. So for your purposes and the purposes of this study, what’s sort of your scope with that?
Kate: Well, I use the language ‘conversion practices’ because they’re in no way therapeutic, and I refuse to say that they are.
Courtney: I like that! That’s fair. I might adopt that.
Kate: That’s the language that we use in Australia. So, the latest laws that have been enacted in certain states have been laws against conversion practices. So, I inserted conversion practices into different sections: in healthcare, but also in religious discrimination. And one of the reasons I looked at it in religious discrimination was because I’ve often heard activists stating the UK’s National LGBT survey, which found that asexual people were the sexual orientation group with the highest rate of being offered conversion therapy, which was almost double the rate the bisexual people were. And I found that to be an interesting statistic, but I was a bit concerned about citing it all the time, because such a high number of asexual people are trans or gender diverse and I thought, “Well, this just– if this survey doesn’t indicate why they were offered conversion therapy, is it because they were asexual or was it something to do with their gender identity?”
Kate: So I decided that I would ask the question, “If you were referred to some kind of conversion practice, what was the reason for that?” I decided to ask. But what I found was that 64– about 65.5% were for asexuality or asexuality plus another thing. So yeah, I was surprised actually to find that it was higher than I thought it would be, they were referred because they were asexual specifically. 32% were referred just because of their asexuality, but many of them did not. They got out of it, they didn’t have to go, that weren’t sent. So that was good. I only got one respondent, who submitted a story about actually being sent to a conversion camp and they were 12.
Courtney: [expresses disgust] That’s sickening. That is– I’m glad that you thought to specify in the question, because even asking it and still separating it out, we’ve gotten a larger, more rounded, clear picture of it, but we also still know that those numbers are very high due to the asexuality.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. So the question I asked was: “If you have experienced some kind of conversion practice, what was the perceived problem?” Though– Yes, that– that was– that was a lot to find that it was the– was asexuality. And I guess that’s surprising when you look at it in isolation, but when– then, when you’ve actually read all the rest of the section on religious discrimination, it becomes not surprising at all. Because you know, I would have thought– I mean, Australia is a very secular country. I have very little exposure to Christianity, I don’t know that much about it. So I would have thought, oh, you know, not having sex before marriage, not being interested in sex, you know, asexuality, it wouldn’t really bother, you know, Christianity. And that– boy, am I wrong.
Courtney: That’s a common belief, though. Even people who do grow up in closer proximity to heavily Christian areas, still have that misconception. So you are very much not alone in that.
Kate: Yeah. And I mean, Christianity isn’t the only religion that came up, but I think that 30% of respondents were American, and the survey was only circulated in English. So, you know, it’s going to skew towards Christianity, and that’s not surprising. What was surprising is the second-highest, second most common religion that was mentioned, which was pagan and wiccan experiences. Awful lot of– I mean it wasn’t a lot, but it was more than I would expect of pagan and wiccan people. And what’s happening there is that, because a lot of pagan and wiccan– a lot of that is a response directly against the Christian church, so a lot of it is really embracing sexuality, and being highly sex-positive, and using sexuality within practice, there was a real– Some people just express a feeling of discomfort, you know, like they didn’t feel welcome because they weren’t using their sexuality. But others described what was outright inappropriate in terms of their sexuality within pagan and wiccanism. Wiccanism? I don’t know. Is that the word? Within pagan and wiccan practice.
Kate: So I had three responses of men in there – I don’t know 30s, 40s – certainly much older who wanted to help minor women, minor girls, you know, find their sexual energy. And then, you know, I’m getting to those and I was like, I really wish this wasn’t an anonymous survey because I feel like I should report this to someone.
Courtney: Yeah, that’s questionable.
Kate: That’s really uncomfortable. But it was Christianity that came up the most. 61% of respondents said that they had felt that they’d experienced some kind of discrimination. 61% of them, it was some form of Christianity. And when you look through the different experiences people have had, it was very eye-opening for me in terms of what people experience in all religions. And including the– I think two people who said that they’d experienced it within the atheist community, which I included, It’s not technically a religion but I felt like it was close enough to include their data as well. But interestingly, only about 50% said that their experience– this experience was a factor in them choosing to leave or convert. So not all of them chose to leave or convert, but those that did, only half of them, this feeling of discrimination was a reason why they did. So it’s a bit odd, actually. I don’t quite understand why that is.
Royce: I guess, one question. I don’t know if you have an answer to this, but when you say they– they left or converted, did they leave the organization, the church, and keep the religion? Or leave their religion altogether? Because we do know some people who have – or have talked to some people – who have left organized religion, but still practice their religion. Like, they found their own way to practice it individually in a way that made sense to them.
Kate: I asked both. So 39% said that they still have faith, but they practice their faith outside the community organized religion. Nearly 10% said that they have left this specific religious community and have found acceptance in a different community within the same faith. 13.8% have converted to another religion or faith. And 22–23% say that they no longer believe at all. So there’s all sorts of different responses kind of covered by it, but only 50% said that their specific feeling of being discriminated against was the reason for them making that decision. But I mean, I also think that you may not necessarily fully know the reasons for your doing something. You know, you make a decision but you don’t always know the reason. You know, a lot of these people also were gender diverse so they may have felt discriminated against for being asexual and being gender diverse, and it was the gender diversity that made them leave. You know, maybe they could– they felt they could handle the asexual stuff, but not the gender diversity, which would make sense. And, you know, it’s sort of a factor then but it’s not really the main factor they were thinking of. So I mean, yeah, we just don’t– I just don’t have that kind of data. So that makes sense.
Courtney: And were there many sort of actually detailed examples about what some of these conversion practices actually look like? You mentioned one 12 year old who actually got sent to a camp which sounds like, at least, close in line to what the average person thinks about when they think of conversion therapy camp. But what other sort of types were there?
Kate: That is the only person that wrote about conversion. So– There are lots of things that you might consider conversion therapy in some different ways. So, looking at them– So, this is as a percentage of the group that said they had experienced some form of discrimination, not the whole survey. So, 2% of them said they’ve been offered sex by a religious leader to fix or cure them. [Courtney expresses disgust] 4.73% had been subjected to an intervention. And the same number had been sexually assaulted in order to fix or cure them. You can’t see me making my little finger quotes but, “fix or cure”.
Courtney: Yeah… “Fix.” [expresses disgust]
Kate: 13.82% had been told or made to pray for a cure. 20% had had the community pray for their sexuality to change. So I’d say those are the main ones in that section where we asked about conversion therapy. And then– then we also asked about specific– there was a section where we specifically asked about conversion therapy. Sorry, conversion practice as I should say.
Courtney: I do really like that, and I didn’t realize that that was the phrase used in Australia and likely other places. Because we always hear [emphatically] conversion therapy– conversion therapy and conversion therapy camps. But I like conversion practices. Because in the US, when we do have all of these very– these right-wing, Christian lobbyists who are trying to lobby in favor of keeping conversion therapy, that’s the word they weaponize. They always say, like, “Oh, this isn’t, you know, abusive, this is yada yada. This is just– this is therapy, and we’re pro therapy. Therapy is supposed to be a good thing. What if this person can live their best life after they go through this therapy? That’s not a bad thing.” So I like not using that word.
Kate: And I especially like conversion practices for what it covers in asexuality, because we do have such a high number of medical interventions, you know, trying to cure us hormonally. So I think that is good. Unfortunately, we had recently introduced laws in Victoria, which is a state here, and the laws do cover asexual and aromantic people – thanks to the excellent work of my colleague – but they do leave an exception for if it is accepted medical practice. Which I think is a big deliberate attempt to exclude the intersex community.
Kate: I think that’s the reason for saying that about it. I think that also does take in asexual people because there’s a lot of accepted medical practice.
Courtney: Of course.
Kate: So, yeah. The section in healthcare kind of covers all sorts of things that could be conversion– considered conversion. And I’m not sure that I asked anything specifically about it, but we did ask about things like Hyposexual Desire Disorder. So one thing we found is that Hyposexual Desire Disorder is no longer in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, we’re on version 5 now, and I think it was in version four. Now, we have two different diagnoses, one for men, and one for women. But– and I cannot remember, I can never remember what they’re called, I think the men’s one is still the same and that the women’s one is something different. But we asked about if, you know, if people had been diagnosed with these, and then we asked if they had been diagnosed with these despite not being distressed by their lack of libido. Because in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – which is what all psychiatrists, psychologists, etcetera, are supposed to go by this manual, you know – it tells what the official psychiatric conditions are, basically is what this book is, and it says that for HSDD, or whatever its new versions are, that you shouldn’t be diagnosing it if the patient self-identifies as asexual.
Kate: And the two factors that mean you should be diagnosing it is: one, the patient has a persistent lack of libido – I don’t know if it uses the word libido, I’m not sure – but a patient has a ongoing lack of libido; and the second criteria is that this must be causing them distress. We asked the question, have you been diagnosed? And we also asked the question, were you diagnosed despite not experiencing distress? Yes. Seven of the eleven people who had been diagnosed with it were diagnosed despite the fact that their lack of libido wasn’t causing them any distress. And so, I mean, that’s not a high number, that’s not a big sample size, but I very much doubt that these people have the same doctor. So seven out of eleven doctors are completely ignoring the second– the second criteria that they need for diagnosis. And they may be ignoring the third, we didn’t actually ask if they were diagnosing despite the person identifying as asexual, but they could be doing that as well, we don’t know.
Courtney: Yeah. I’ve always had an issue with that language because, first of all, it is very easy for a doctor to, you know, assign sort of an issue where there isn’t one despite how the client identifies, or the patient.
Kate: So hypo- is insufficient, is H-Y-P-O, lower than normal. So hyposexual, not enough sexual desire disorder. What is the right amount of sexual desire? And how does the doctor get inside a patient’s internal feelings to determine whether or not they are not feeling the correct amount of sexual desire?
Courtney: Right. And if someone does, for example, have– have distress, is it because they do not have the – quote – appropriate amount of desire? Or is it because society tells them it’s wrong? You know?
Kate: Or because of the results of this survey, is– and what I’ve seen come up in the intimate partner stuff and in the healthcare section here – is it because their partner wants them to have more sexual desire? And when I speak to doctors, medical students– A few times now, the Medical Students Associations in Australia have really wanted to talk to us. They feel they’re not learning enough about asexuality and they, you know, they are really keen to learn more, which I think is amazing. And also, I’ve spoken to doctors themselves a few times. And I say to them, like, really look at the whole– holistic thing here. What’s happening here? Is– is the husband out in the waiting room when this person has come to you saying they don’t have enough libido, or they don’t have– they don’t have sexual attraction. I mean, it says don’t diagnose if the person self-identifies as asexual, but have they heard of the term? Say to them, “Oh do you know what asexuality is? Have you considered that this might be you?” You know, like, try and do more than just go straight to the diagnosis
Courtney: Yeah, it always seemed more like, “Oh, unless they identify as asexual.” That felt more like let’s just throw that in to appease the asexuals so they don’t keep getting mad at us for saying this. Like, “Oh, look! We included you.”
Kate: Yeah, that’s ridiculous to say unless they self-identify as something that they may not have heard of.
Courtney: Right. Because, yeah, HSDD is the one that a lot of people do discuss, and it did get split and it is odd. I think you are right that they did keep it the same Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder for males. Like Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder now, and then they have a second one for females, but they change the word of that and it’s like sexual arousal and interest, or something like that. And it’s like… it’s very odd.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. So for men, it’s definitely active. For men it is active, hypoactive, and for women, it’s hypo… yeah, it’s a– it’s a much more passive word. Whatever the word is. Yeah, it’s very gendered. The man is expected to have it active, and the woman is expected to have a more of a passive sexual desire. Yeah, and I don’t know what non-binary people are supposed to be diagnosed with.
Courtney: Yeah… There’s– There’re issues. There are issues.
Kate: Yeah, so that Health Care section is the longest section in the report because we asked– frankly, we ask too many questions. It was very confusing, it didn’t work well on mobile, and we should never do this again.
Courtney: Noted. [laughs]
Kate: But we did glean a lot of information from it. And just the stories we got about doctors, and those alone were very useful. We got positive, negative, and kind of neutral stories. So I was able to kind of go on different medical professionals on, you know, how many good, bad, and neutral stories they each got to try and find who is the worst kind of medical professional. But also to be fair, you know, we had just done five sections in which people were asked to only tell us negative things, and then we gave them this section where they could tell us also positive things. So they were kind of primed to say only negative stories. But yeah, we did also get examples of, like, good positive care that people had had. So it does give me like, here are some do’s to add along with the don’ts when I do stuff with medical professionals. So– so that’s good. But one thing that was really concerning was the responses about relationship counselors and sex therapists specifically. That was– that was really concerning.
Kate: We’ve got relationship counselors, sex therapists, telling patients to force themselves to have sex. [Courtney makes disgusted noises]. So, you know, you’ve got a sex therapist sitting down with a patient and saying, like, “If you don’t want to have sex, you just have to force yourself.” And we’ve got relationship counselors sitting down with a couple and saying to them, you know, “If she’s not into it, you know, you just have to force it.” Like, what is that?
Courtney: No! No… See, that’s so upsetting because I personally have a friend who is actually a sex coach, and she is very, very mindful of asexuality, and I’ve had many conversations with her, and she tries very hard to go out of her way to use inclusive language and not default to the same things that I hear a lot of, sort of, sex therapists say where like, “Oh, sex is healthy. And everyone should have sex, and everyone should have more sex.” And so I’m very grateful for her, but I’m – I guess – disappointed but not surprised that there are others in the field who are much less mindful.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. It’s– That’s really concerning.
Courtney: Were there any instances that stood out to you of, just like, psychologists who maybe even didn’t necessarily diagnose something out of the DSM, but still very much encouraged people to explore sexual activity they weren’t interested in? In a therapy kind of setting.
Kate: Oh, commonly. Commonly. I don’t know of any specifically off the top of my head, but, yeah, they– psychologists and therapists, they were the most common stories I got were from psychologists– were about psychologists and therapists. Because these are the two professions, really, that patients are disclosing to the most. If they’re going to disclose their asexuality, it’s going to be to a psychologist or therapist, because that’s the time when it’s most relevant. And they come out okay, but not great. Definitely more negative stories than positive stories. But again, like I said, people were primed to tell a negative story. But yeah, it’s often a kind of– they just don’t believe that it’s a real thing that it exists, the psychologist. There’s either that or the psychologist or therapist is convinced that the asexuality is caused by trauma. So they– they want to go in and they want to get in there and treat the sexual trauma or, you know, they start saying– suggesting that there’s repressed child sexual abuse there, that the patient doesn’t know about it. And I’ve experienced that myself personally when I revealed that I was asexual, the psychologist started asking some, like, really pointed questions about my father. Which– I was like, “Whoa, what is happening here?”
Courtney: Yeah! That’s a– that’s a leap.
Kate: Yeah then I got– I could see where she was going with it, and I got really, really uncomfortable and I changed– I just just, like, went “I won’t see her again.” Yes. So yeah, that– that’s the more common. It’s– They’re trying to treat asexuality, and not the thing that the patient actually wants to be treated, which is a real problem. And that was probably the most common thing that happened with therapists and psychologists. But also with other kinds of medical professionals: gynecologists, just doctor – and people didn’t specify, endocrinologists. Although endocrinologists actually didn’t come out too bad.
Courtney: Oh good for them.
Kate: Yeah, they had two good, two bad, two neutral.
Courtney: All right.
Kate: So that puts them in equal first place, having three even across the board. That’s as good as you can get, having an equal number of good, bad, and a neutral.
Courtney: Props to the endocrinologist of the world.
Kate: And dermatologist, yeah.
Courtney: And dermatologists.
Kate: Dermatology comes up surprisingly often because there are some medications, acne medications which you can’t take them if you might be pregnant.
Courtney: Yeah, that makes sense now that you say that.
Kate: I had one example of the person saying that the dermatologist insisted that they might be pregnant, you know, they must take a pregnancy test. And one saying that, you know, she said, “Well, I can’t possibly be because I’m asexual.” And the dermatologist was like, “Oh, okay great. We don’t need to take a pregnancy test.”
Courtney: Awesome! More doctors need to do that.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. And that– and that’s what I say when I– when I talk to doctors. I say, “Look, some asexual people do have sex, and if they do, they’re not gonna lie to you.” And I know that patients sometimes lie, and I know that doctors worry about patients lying and then, you know, determine to find that out, but an asexual person is going to be honest with you if you tell them, you know, “You can’t take this medication if you might be pregnant, are you having sex?” They’re going to tell you the truth.
Kate: No one’s going to say to you, “Oh I’m not having sex, I’m asexual,” to get out of taking a pregnancy test. That’s just not going to happen.
Courtney: It’s just not being believed by healthcare providers that can be really– you know, it can be embarrassing, it can be humiliating. Because it’s like, I’m trusting you to provide me Healthcare and you’re treating me like I am lying to you about everything. There needs to be some sort of, like, mutual level of trust here. And if you’re already starting from a point of not believing and not listening to them, then you’re going to have issues.
Kate: Probably the worst consequence we– that we had was a woman who miscarried. It’s not 100% clear, but it suggests that her baby might have been saved if they believed her on when the conception date was. [Courtney ums] But they– the doctor didn’t. He said, you know, it’s just smaller than we– It’s just younger than we thought, you know. It’s just small. And so because he didn’t take her seriously, and didn’t believe her when the– when the conception date was, and it couldn’t possibly be any other date. And so she miscarried.
Courtney: Oh… That’s terrible.
Kate: So that was– that was pretty– pretty upsetting that one. I think that was one of the stories where I had to, like, get up and go for a walk. Yeah, that was awful.
Courtney: That’s terrible.
Kate: Yeah, we’re talking, you know, very real consequences for just not believing a person, asexual person.
Courtney: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think too– too often in healthcare, and this is– this is on the psychology side of things, with psychologists and therapists giving, you know, what’s probably very harmful advice, at best not helpful, but I think often they can give very harmful advice. But then you– you do have the actual– when medications are involved, potential pregnancies, other things to that effect, I guess, I guess the physical and the mental perhaps is where I’m getting at. But I think on both sides of the medical profession there is just a culture of othering asexuality. And even if they don’t use or acknowledge the word asexual, even going back to HSDD, like what, what is normal? What is hypoactive? There’s– there’s this idea that everyone has, that everyone is and should be sexual. And that is to me inherently acephobic, whether or not the patient is out as ace. Because it will disproportionately harm those folks.
Courtney: For me, for example, and I’ve mentioned this on a couple of occasions in a couple of different situations, and I’ve been told, “Well, that wasn’t acephobic because you weren’t even out as ace. You were probably too young to know that you were ace.” But I was 14 years old, and I was telling my therapist that there was a boy who was pursuing me sexually and making me very uncomfortable and I didn’t want anything to do with it. And she was like, “Oh well, why don’t you explore that relationship with him? Why don’t, you know, you know, why don’t you give it a go?” Like, you’ve– And she chalked it up to, like, normal teenage behavior. She’s like, “Courtney, you’ve had to grow up so fast. You’ve had to be the adult, you’ve had to take care of other people in your life. And it’s just time for you to be a normal teenager. So why don’t you explore this relationship with this boy?” And I was like… Uh, that– that was very harmful advice. I got put in a very dangerous situation, as a direct result of that advice from a therapist at age 14. And people will, you know, have the audacity to tell me like, “Well, you didn’t even tell her you were asexual. You didn’t even, you know, tell anybody the word asexual at the time.” It’s like, I don’t care. I think it comes from the same bias. Regardless of whether or not the word asexuality is used.
Kate: Yeah, that’s completely, totally inappropriate advice. I just– And I’ve got– I’ve got so many stories in the– in the sexual violence as well, of kids who are, you know, 14 15, a lot of them– a lot of them girls but not all. And you know, they’re telling stories of being actively stalked by boys. And yeah, no– no help. You know there’s one of a sexual assault that happened directly in front of a teacher who didn’t say a word. I’m just– what?! You know that that’s just doubly traumatic, you know, to have it occur in front of a teacher and receive no help of any kind. How is a person– How is a person supposed to, I guess, have any trust in authority that, you know, that anybody is going to help you, anybody is going to take you seriously.
Kate: Yeah, it’s just– Yeah, I just don’t have words for a lot of the– Man, I was a bitch on the days I was reading the sexual violence stories. I was so unpleasant to be with.
Courtney: [laughs] I don’t think anyone could blame you for that! That’s a lot to take in.
Kate: Yeah, I was reading, you know, I read them all day so that I would have less days of reading them, rather than like reading a few a day and having to deal with it for a longer period of time.
Courtney: Sure. Just– just binge that statistical trauma.
Kate: Yeah, yeah, I mean it’s a lot. We got– I think, we got about 1600 qualitative responses, so like 1600 stories. Most of which were negative, and I’ve read them all twice. So yeah. It’s– it’s a lot. And I’m not– I mean, you would think that that would be kind of re-traumatizing for me, but it’s really not. And I’m kind of a– I’m a little bit desensitized now. Like I don’t– I don’t really know how to judge the level of upsetting the stories are, and I will repeat one and be like, “Oh I’m sorry, that was way worse than I had thought that it was.”
Courtney: I mean, I’m– I’m honestly quite the same. I have also not only experienced a variety of traumas, but I have many close friends who have shared, you know, in detail their traumas. And so, I also feel like there’s a level of desensitization. But more so to your point about the fact that this wasn’t re-traumatizing for you, I almost find it to be a bit healing in nature, when I read, “Hey, I’m not alone. There are other people who have similar experiences.” And that you can see in the data that it’s not an insignificant number either. Because before being able to find the ace community and read studies like this, I would be like, “What the heck? What is wrong with me? Why have I experienced so many traumas? This is ridiculous.” I feel like if I laid out on paper all the traumas I’ve given and just handed it to someone, they’d be like, “You can’t possibly have gone through all of this.”
Kate: I find it, like, energizing. It makes me want to do things, makes me want to– You know, makes me want to work, to do something about this problem. But yeah, it can be a lot the days where I have to do the– do the qualitative stuff.
Courtney: Sure. And– and what sort of thoughts do you have about what we as a community can do with this research, and what sort of work we can do going forward to build off of it. Because clearly, there are safety issues, clearly there are abuses, clearly there are patterns here. What is it that we can take away from all this data to sort of help protect ourselves and our communities? And get the education out.
Kate: Yeah. Well, I’m really, really focused on– on awareness and education. But I don’t mean awareness in a kind of vague, like, awareness bubbly sense. I mean, actually, we’re, like, making people aware that this is– this is the situation, and it is– it is a crisis situation. Like, we have asexual people experiencing different forms of violence at just alarmingly high rates. You know, there’s that 39% for intimate partner violence. We’ve got 16.86% experiencing sexual violence that occurred because they are asexual, even after we remove everything else. I mean, that’s just– that’s just too high. 11.82% of asexual people have been sexually assaulted because they are asexual. I mean, that’s just– that’s just a ridiculous number. That’s so unacceptable. And I think that there’s just genuine ignorance. People just do not know that.
Kate: And I think if– one of the important things is for me to just tell as many people that as possible because, you know, when I do the room goes silent and people say, “Oh my God.” You know they just–
Courtney: “I had no idea!”
Kate: Yeah. They just didn’t know that they’re just– And then I think a lot of people, you know, when I tell them that my work is that I research hate crimes against asexual people, they say, “Is that even a thing?”
Kate: Because they just can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem. But they do have a problem. And I think, yeah, just making people aware that this is a problem. And also I would very much like some money. I think that people need to start actually putting some money behind the problem, so that we can get out there and do some education. And with–
Courtney: With proper funding.
Kate: Yeah, yeah exactly. Like, there’s no asexual education or, you know, awareness, or support organization even, that actually has ever had any funding, anywhere in the world. And that’s, well, that’s really problematic. And, you know, as another thing that you can do, as you– like, in your local area, is just getting involved with and getting in touch with all the local queer groups, the LGBTQIA+ groups, and just saying to them, “Do you cater to asexuals? Do you– do your– are your programs available to asexuals? If they’re not, do you know why asexuals might need your services?” And providing them with that information, so that they can get involved. And they– And they may have– It’s probably just an oversight on their part.
Kate: I know that the internet can make it seem like asexual people just aren’t welcome and, you know, the community doesn’t want us there, but I have never, in real life, gone into a real life queer community, among queer people, and been made to feel unwelcome.
Courtney: I could say the same for myself honestly.
Kate: Yeah, I mean, I’ve just done, you know, massive conferences, you know, that human rights conference, totally welcome. Completely. Completely welcomed there. I was just at the big community fair day this weekend, which– which is held in my city every year, and like, I know literally every person that comes past, you know, it’s not that big a town and, you know, there’s people constantly like, “Hey! Hey!” You know, I just know everyone there, I’m always welcome. We as an organization are welcome there. You know, we were too small to be able to afford– to pay for to have a stall, and just the people that run it were like, “Well, you’re so important. You need to be there. You don’t pay. You’re fine. We’ll pay for you.” We’re just so welcome in real life, all the time. And I think if any organization that’s in your area isn’t catering to asexual people, isn’t offering their services, it’s ignorance. It’s probably not deliberate. No deliberate discrimination. They probably just don’t know that we need those services. Or they’re not sure how to offer them, and they may not know that there is anyone who can advise them on it.
Kate: Many times I’ve been to conferences or something– or something and someone has approached me and said, “Oh, my God. Thank you so much for being here because I have a lot of questions.” You know, we didn’t want to offer our domestic violence services to asexual people because we didn’t want to get it wrong. [Cortney ums]. You know, we aren’t sure how to do it and we wanted to consult with someone, and we just didn’t know, like, we couldn’t find anyone. So like, you know, can I have your card? Can we email? Can you help us do it properly?” So yeah, get yourself known out there and connect with the local services. And just give them this information. Tell them to read my report, you know, whatever.
Kate: I’m working on a pamphlet at the moment that we can give out that’s just like, “Are your services catering to asexual people? If not, why not? Here’s the information you need.” You know? So that I can just hand it around to people and say to them, “No, have you considered…?”
Kate: Yeah, just that kind of thing. Getting out there and just making people aware of what we need and why we need it.
Courtney: Yeah, I think that’s so important. Because that’s been more or less my experience with actual in person organizations as well, is that they may be ignorant but they don’t tend to be hateful. Any and all issues I’ve had in real person, you know, LGBTQ+ situations have just been like the one off jerk here and there, but the overall place, the venue, the organization, has been quite welcoming. So and that is easy to lose sight of when the internet does seem to be just a sea of acephobia, but–
Kate: Yeah. Yeah.
Courtney: I even saw on your report that you did get some troll responses, and I actually– I kind of liked that you included some of them in your report.
Kate: You know, the great– I mean, the great thing about researching acephobia or hate crime is that every right branch that I get sent is just data to me, so…
Courtney: That’s one way to look at it! [laughs]
Kate: I’m able to include it in my report. So yeah, that was fabulous. And yeah, the two people that sent in troll responses, I find it fascinating as well. Because I was like, they were such obvious trolls. Like, at least– at least screw my data up and make it seem like you’re a real response. Because they were so obvious, I was able to just completely remove them from the data set very easily.
Courtney: Yeah! I was quite baffled because I would think that a troll going through such a large survey as this, that will take a little time to get through, that they did make it so obvious. I mean, let’s see, what was I reading… Oh, people were like, “Oh, I hope you suffer from microaggressions!” What? [laughs]
Kate: Yeah. Yeah, you whining milquetoast babies. Yeah.
Courtney: [laughs] It’s– yeah. That’s quite something.
Kate: At least they put a normal name, so it took me a little bit to find a response, whereas the other one who signed themselves as Lord something or other, and that that was so easy to find. And we were like, “Uh… that’s not real.”
Courtney: Are you sure they weren’t a real member of the aristocracy?
Kate: Probably not.
Courtney: No, not with that troll name, no.
Kate: Although they were extremely antisemitic. So, maybe they were.
Courtney: Ah-a! Well… well.
Kate: And they were extremely racist and antisemitic, so they could have been a real member of the aristocracy.
Courtney: So we can’t rule it out! Oh, man. Which I guess, to branch off of the troll response because someone saying that they hope– [empathically] they hope you suffer from microaggressions, you did have an entire section on microaggressions. And when I first read the title of your report, I did not even have to start reading the report to know where this came from. That quote that’s, “I don’t know if this counts but…” – dot dot dot – Because just being ace and knowing aces, and interacting with the community, I knew exactly where that feeling came from.
Kate: Every ace person that sees the title is just like, “Why are you calling me out personally?” Like they just– [Courtney laughs] All of them. I’m so glad that I called it that because it just speaks to ace people.
Courtney: It really does! It’s spot on.
Kate: I know, and I’ve called this phenomenon asexual self-minimization. Because it is– it is so common where an asexual person starts their response with something like, “I don’t know if this counts, but–” or “I know other people have it worse,” or words to that effect, and then they just described a straight up hate crime. Like something that is just objectively horrendous and you just go, “Of course that counts.” Like that is 100%. Like– Yeah, this just– this feeling like nothing that can happen to an asexual person really counts. And it just feels like they – I want to say ‘we’ but I refuse to participate in it so, we – but we do it to ourselves constantly. And it’s just so concerning that so many of the respondents seem to feel like their experience doesn’t count and shouldn’t count, when it absolutely does. And it’s just so common that I felt like this thing needs a name.
Courtney: Yeah… I– I would 100% agree with that. Because, like I said, I knew where that came from before I even got into the numbers. But that’s another reason why we need– we need studies like this, we need surveys, we need the data. Because we also need other aces to be able to see you do count, you aren’t just – you know – a one-off exception. This is– this is a pattern, this is real. And it’s interesting that you got people saying that as a preface to, like, certifiable hate crimes. Because I know definitely people do that at the drop of a hat when it comes to microaggression. Because they’re like, [hesitantly] “Oh, I don’t really know if this is a microaggression.” Sort of, um and uh around that.
Kate: We initially listed 29 that we could think of. And then there was a further 26 write-ins, that–
Kate: I mean there were a lot of things that got written in more than once, but like that were distinct from each other, there are 26 more. But the other interesting thing about write-ins that I really found important – and I think it gets back to that “I don’t know if this counts but” – was with microaggressions we didn’t just ask if people had experienced them, we asked who the person saying this was. And we had about, I want to say like 8 categories. You know, parent, sibling, other family member, friend, co-worker, authority figure. Yeah, there’s about eight to ten there. And we had two or three people write and say that they thought we should have included ‘self’ as one of them. Because a lot of the time when they had experienced this thing, it had been themselves saying it. And I was just– reading this I was like, “Wow that is– that is such a good point.” Yeah, we do get all of these– all of these from ourselves.
Courtney: Yeah. And I find it so interesting. And for any listener out there, I do hope you open the report and go through some of this, because some of these charts are just so fascinating to just visually see. But with the microaggressions experienced at least once by respondents, the largest one at the bottom, I think most of us have heard this at one point, and that’s why I was like, “Yeah, well I guess that number checks out,” was: you just haven’t met the right person.
Kate: Oh yeah… I love this one because people can– Like, you can spend, you know, 10 minutes explaining what asexuality and aromanticism is, you know, and saying, “I don’t want a partner and I’m not interested in entering into a relationship.” And the response is, “You just haven’t met the right person yet.” Like, I literally just told you I am not looking for the right person!
Courtney: Yeah. And that’s– I mean, 80.56% have reported hearing that. And not too far behind, still in the 72-78% are the things like, “Sex is part of human nature. This is what makes us human.” And it’s like, that’s– that’s something that we hear so often throughout our lives, whether or not it’s specifically directed at us. Even if it’s just around, that we do sort of just absorb these things and it can– it can really weigh on the psyche.
Kate: My favorite is, “Sex is what makes us human,” because like, have you heard of animals?
Courtney: Lots of animals do that actually! Lots of animals who are not humans, even.
Kate: Have you heard of orchids? Orchids. They do it, I think it’s orchids. Yeah, there are plants that have sex, like pretty sure it doesn’t make us human. Yeah, yeah. That one just, I laugh. I’m just looking to see if there– yeah, what some of the write-ins were, because a few of them did make me laugh. I was like, “Oh my God. Yes. How did I– how did we not think of that when we were writing the questions?”
Courtney: [laughs] How did I miss it?
Kate: Yeah. Because there were just so many, that’s how I missed it! Oh yeah. “Why do you need so many labels?” I’m so familiar with that. “It’s not necessary to come out as asexual.” I– that’s really, really common, love that one.
Courtney: Oh yeah, I hear that one plenty.
Kate: “Asexuals will end the human race,” love that one. [Courtney laughs] Oh, “Stealing all the resources.” Yes, this misconception that asexual people are taking resources away from the real LGBTQIA+ community.
Courtney: What resources are those…? Oh, pray tell. [laughs]
Kate: I would love those resources! I would love to steal the resources! Please give me the resources! I mean, I spent two years writing this in my spare time. Nobody gave me any money. Yeah, no, we have no funding in our nonprofit. Like yeah. Just– I would love some of them resources.
Courtney: Because yeah, this is extensive. I mean this had to– I don’t even– I can’t even imagine how many hours worth of work this was to complete.
Kate: I took three months off to not do it, in which I wrote a trashy medieval romance novel.
Courtney: Did you!? Well, let’s hear more about that!
Kate: Like, “I think I’m gonna spend the summer writing a trashy medieval romance novel instead of working on this.” That was a great summer.
Courtney: That actually sounds really fun.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. It was like, I don’t care if it’s not good, I’m just going to write it, it’s gonna be fun. Yeah. But the one other thing I would like to talk about is kind of what I say on the– in the final remarks at the back, which is what I think is really important, is that the survey unfortunately does miss a lot of things that it could have covered, and some that it couldn’t, it is missing that intersectional aspect. I mean, it was only published in English. And you know, I know from– from our friends in Southeast Asia that a lot of this violence and a lot of this oppression is occurring there far more than it occurs here. So if anything this is underestimating, you know. I have a friend that works in Bangladesh so, you know, she’s down there on the ground, while I’m just reporting on how common it is in primarily Western countries. And, you know, we haven’t looked at how being both disabled and asexual, you know, that– how that affects a person’s experience. You know, whether being neurodivergent, or having a mental illness, we didn’t ask any of these questions. And these are things that are going to increase the likelihood of a person’s experience of violence.
Kate: And you know, if you have a mental illness or you are neurodivergent, statistically we know that you are more at risk of intimate partner violence, or sexual assault. But the most important thing is that I was not able to, and did not, ask about a person’s race or ethnicity, and that’s a big problem because of the racism problem both within and outside of the asexual community. You know, asexuality being seen by people as always just a thing that white women say to get more attention. And I don’t know how to factor race into a global study. Because– I mean, if I say, you know, what is your ethnicity or what– what is your race, like, the same person in South Africa, and the US, and the UK, and Japan, if they give the same answer…
Courtney: Right, yeah. And factoring in diaspora and–
Kate: Yeah. Yeah.
Courtney: Are you in the minority where you’re currently living, you know?
Kate: Yeah, it’s just not going to make sense. But we absolutely need to know how this– how race affects the experience, so– I mean, Yasmin Benoit is doing a similar work to this in the UK at the moment with Stonewall. And so, she’s doing it within one country. And I think– I don’t know exactly what she’s doing, but I think that there are, like, loads of interviews. So, I’m really hoping that her study, kind of, will be able to look at that because it’s within one country.
Kate: And that will hopefully cover– Yeah, be able to cover that– that angle because I think it is so important. Because, you know, even– It’s important because outside of the Ace community, there is a– I don’t want to say there’s a misperception of that, you know, ace people– asexuality is just a white person thing, because I think misperception implies that it’s a, you know, it’s a– not a malicious thing at all, and being racist is definitely– doesn’t deserve that. But yeah, there’s certainly an attitude that, you know, asexuality is– is for white people. And there are those within the Asexual community who perpetuate that. So, I really think that we should be talking about it and we should be looking at it. And I’m really regretful that I haven’t been able to study it. Yeah.
Courtney: Well, I certainly do hope that there are more studies to come, and also to your point, that there are hopefully well funded studies to come. That would– Maybe that’s too much to hope for, but boy, that’d be great. Huh?
Kate: Yeah, yeah. Like, hopefully it’s interesting enough that academic institutions can say, “Okay, great. So we know that there is something here, even if we can’t cite this, but maybe we can say, okay she’s found something here, let’s look at it and see what we can get.” That– that would be great.
Kate: Like, I don’t care if you don’t even acknowledge my– that I did it, just like, do something with this information.
Courtney: That is the thing that I feel like has been most lacking in the– the broader Ace community, is the real sort of, I guess, follow-up and activism and advocacy, in an attempt to actually make real change. Because we have a lot of Ace 101. And we have a constant sort of rotating door of new people coming in doing Ace 101. And that is still very much needed. I don’t think the Ace 101 should ever go away, because there are still people just now discovering it. But as far as organizations, as far as funding, as far as legislation, and like, true boots-on-the-ground activism trying to make change, and trying to educate people about the numbers not just, “Here’s what asexuality is,” but “Here’s what asexual people need, here’s what our community is going through, and here’s how you can help us.” I’ve found such a lack of that in so many spaces. And surely there definitely are some. It seems like you are all doing great work in Australia with your survey here. I know there’s a lot of great activism happening in some of the Asian countries. You mentioned Yasmin with the– the study in the UK. But it just doesn’t seem like enough comparatively. Because you– you call this a– I believe you used the word crisis earlier, with how high these numbers are. And I don’t feel like we have the… we don’t have the fire under us that I think we need based on these findings, and based on what our community is actually going through.
Kate: Yeah yeah. That’s how I feel as well. We need to start doing something. And however we start doing something. Like, I don’t care, like, I don’t care what you’re doing, just like, take this information and do something with it.
Courtney: On that note, we covered a lot of ground, but this– this is such a large report that I have no doubt there were entire sections we’ve glossed over. So, I want to make sure that we don’t miss anything that you’re particularly keen to talk about. So, were there any other– Any other things you wanted to mention, either about your own experience, about the study, about other activism happening in different places of the world?
Kate: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. And I have been talking for two hours straight, so I’m a little bit blah.
Courtney: That’s okay.
Kate: I think it is– I think it is important, as well, I did mention, like, the intersectionality with just– with disability before. And I think there’s one great quote in the report where the person says that in healthcare it’s really difficult because their problem is they’re too easily believed. Because they’re in a wheelchair and they feel like doctors are just assuming already that they’re asexual. [Courtney expresses agreement]. So they kind of have the opposite problem. And I just thought it was really important that I include that particular quote when I was looking through all of the stories. Because, yeah, that’s another thing that I think really needs to be kept in mind as well, is that there is this kind of assumption of asexuality that disabled people experience. And being disabled myself, and an occasional wheelchair user, it really puts you in this place where you’re like, well, I don’t want to perpetuate a stereotype, but at the same time this– this is my experience. Like I am disabled, and also asexual, and autistic as well. Like, I don’t want to not be me, but also I don’t– how do I not perpetuate a stereotype while at the same time, like, just being authentic to my own experience? [Courtney ums thoughtfully] I think it’s really difficult when, you know, people aren’t– people struggle to accept, you know, asexual people experience oppression. Like, they’re not ready for a nuanced experience.
Courtney: Yeah. [laughs] Oh, that’s the truth. Well, you know, it’s very complicated because, yeah, no one wants to, like, be the stereotype, but there are so many things that just do actually need the spotlight. Because these are real people, these aren’t tropes, these aren’t– You know, their existence isn’t harmful. And I think the autism one is especially really interesting because what I’ve found over the years is that people who are incredibly acephobic are also incredibly ableist. And they’ll use autistic as an insult. They’ll be like, “You’re not asexual, you’re just autistic.” And they’ll mean that derogatorily. And it’s like, all right, well, I may say I’m autistic, now what?
Kate: Well yeah. I spent– I spent two years of my life writing this report. Yeah, I’m autistic.
Courtney: [laughs] Yeah! Well, what did you think? And there definitely is an issue with, you know, disabled people often being desexualized, which a lot of people are– are heavily concerned about. But I have a very unusual case where a component of my disability is hyperflexibility. And so my disability has actually been, like, hypersexualized and fetishized at various points. So when other disabled aces are saying, like, “Oh well, we’re already desexualized.” I’m like, “Well, not I.” So there– there are so, so many multitudes within the disabled ace experience.
Kate: And that– I had that same experience as well, as well as the stereotypes. Early on, you know – because I’ve been in this space for four or five years – when I first started talking about my experience surviving corrective sexual assault, there was there was a kind of hostility. It was like, shut up. You know, we don’t want that “all asexual people have survived sexual trauma” kind of push. Like we don’t want to perpetuate that, stop doing it. You know? And I would get sent abuse. But like, that’s really kind of stopped now. Which I think is great. I think people are really way more open to this conversation than they were, you know, even just that short time ago. So I think that’s really good, that people are kind of– people are kind of ready, within our community, to start having this conversation about surviving sexual abuse, sexual assault. And you know. But yeah, before – I can remember – they certainly were not, you know. Because I was– I was even saying, you know, “This happened to me because I was asexual,” not “I’m asexual because this happened,” but people couldn’t even cope with it. [Courtney expresses agreement] So yeah. And I mean, I haven’t received, like, a ‘shut up’, a ‘shut up’ message in, like, well over a year, so.
Courtney: We love progress.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. I think– I think it’s great that now this conversation is a little bit more open now. And I have to thank all my fellow activists in Australia, who have always been like, “No, like 100% we’re going to talk about this. If you want to talk about it, we want to talk about it.” And I know a lot of the discussion about trauma has come out of Australia. Because, you know, the– everyone has been so supportive here. And it’s just been like, “No, but we’re talking about this, this is unacceptable.” You know, when I– when I showed them, like, people have said to me don’t talk about it, they’ve been like, “We will increase the thing! We will talk about it more!”
Kate: So, yeah. And I think it’s great that, you know, we have started to be capable of having nuance. And I hope that we can, you know, we can carry that on into other areas where perhaps we need to be having more nuanced discussion.
Courtney: Oh yeah. I’ve found with trauma and with disability, with all these other intersections, that – I think, especially over the last, like, year, last year and a half, two years maybe – I’ve seen a lot of progress being made in just the general, I guess, discourse of the community. So I’m feeling more optimistic than I felt a couple years ago about the– the state of difficult conversations like those. But there’s– there’s always progress to be made. There’s more improvements that must be done. So hopefully hopefully we can work towards that. And hopefully we can use surveys like this to really, you know, light that fire and give us another push to, like you said, do something with it.
Courtney: So Kate, this was wonderful. Please, tell the people where all they can find you.
Kate: They can find me on Twitter. I am @Sulphuric_Aceid.
Courtney: Love the pun.
Kate: Yes, I’m ace, I’ve gotta have a pun. And also, I’m just very, very angry and corrosive all the time.
Courtney: [laughs] Love the pun and the honesty.
Kate: They can also find me through the Ace & Aro Collective, which is acearocollective.au. I think it’ll come up if you google it, but it may still be in the process.
Courtney: We’ll pop it in the show notes for everyone listening along.
Kate: Yeah, yeah. And you can email me via Ace & Aro Collective. Yeah, we’re new, we’re a new organization in Australia, where like all of the different states have all these different little organizations, and we were just like, well, why are we all, you know, writing our own little educational material? And also, you know, to get anything done, you need to have an ABN and you need– you need to have a business number, and a tax number, and a bank account, and you need to, like, officially register and it’s $800 to do that.
Kate: And we’re like, why would we all do that separately? Let’s just register one organization and then we can all just be, like, little partners of the organization. So yeah, like just kind of collectively pooling our resources.
Courtney: All the– all those many, many resources that were stealing from everybody else.
Kate: Hm! All the st– all the stolen resources we can [Courtney laughs] we can pull those. So yeah, I’m the research director for them, and I also just do stuff in my own little town where we– we have– we have a lot of fun, and get invited to all the cool queer parties. [both chuckle]
Courtney: Well, thank you so much again for being here. I’m so excited about your study, I’m so excited for our listeners to be able to dig into it. And I’m just excited for the future. I’m coming away from this conversation feeling optimistic.
Courtney: So thank you for all the work that you do. Thank you for being here. And thank you to all of our listeners out there who are still sticking with us.
Kate: Thank you so much for having me. I love talking about hate crime.
Courtney: [laughs] Well, there’s– there’s no– no shortage of hate crime to talk about. What’s– what should be our– what should be our big takeaway for the episode? Oh, I feel like it should be a play on the title, “I don’t know if this counts,” Hmm. Maybe the takeaway is: yes, it counts.
Kate: It does count. Absolutely counts. Some– So often when I’m reading them I’m just like, “Oh, honey, yes it counts.” And I really hate that it’s anonymous because I’m like, I just want to hug you. Oh my God.
Courtney: Ow! I want to reach out. [laughs]
Kate: Yeah, yeah. I had to have a little, like, messenger, like, support group for when I needed it. Just like, “Yeah, if you need anything, we’ll just be here, and just message us and tell us that you’re not okay. And it’s fine.” Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to cover by yourself.
Courtney: It sure is. So on that note, our lovely listeners, we will see you all again next week. In the meantime definitely do check out Kate’s work, check out the Ace & Aro Collective AU. Did I get that right?
Kate: That’s us, yeah.
Courtney: And remember: it does count. Your experience counts!
Kate: Also self-care.
Courtney: Also self-care. That’s– that’s– that’s a good one.
Kate: Yeah, practice good self-care. Because your experience does count and– and you need looking after.