Black Asexual Activism ft. Marshall Blount AKA Gentle Giant Ace

Today, we’re joined by Marshall Blount AKA Gentle Giant Ace to talk about Black Asexual activism, the importance of community building, and cake! Tune in to find out why racism is like disco and for a special guest appearance by Marshall’s mom, Marcia!

Tip Marshall on Cashapp at $GentleGiantAce. Follow on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.


Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple. And today, we have yet another fabulous guest, and we cannot wait for this conversation. So I just want to dive right into it. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Marshall: Oh, hi, y’all! I am Marshall, a.k.a. the Gentle Giant Ace. I am a Black Asexual activist out of Erie, Pennsylvania, which is a small town — well, it’s not a small town, but it’s, like, a small big city type thing. It’s in that weird chimney part of Pennsylvania. But I live right there, and that’s where my work is based out of.

Courtney: I am so glad that you took the time to sit down with us today, because we have been just… We’ve chatted back and forth here and there. Well, if you’re on Twitter, first of all, you know the Gentle Giant Ace, I’m sure, if you are Ace and on Twitter. So perhaps he needed no introduction for you. But if you are a listener of this podcast, then you may also be familiar with the fact that last year during Pride Month, I wrote an article for Bon Appetit about the history of cake in the Asexuality community. And Marshall, you were so kind as to be one of my interviewees in that. You gave me some fabulous quotes for it that really made that article special. So we’ll put a link in that description if you want to read that or if you need to catch up.

Courtney: But I want to talk about cake for a minute, and then we want to get into all the kind of work you do. But one thing that we just absolutely love about your Twitter account on — any time there is an Ace Week, anytime there is an International Asexuality Day, your mother is just this, like, Ace cake, like, beautiful hero of a person. Tell us all about her, her cakes, being an ally to you. Because that is something that not a lot of Ace people have — like, just a super supportive parental figure in their life. So we just love that, and we want to talk about that first.

Marshall: Yeah. My mom — she, like me, was born in Erie. Again, it’s a small big city, but it has a way of… Like, we don’t have, like, a lot of access to a lot of LGBTQIA+ Pride spaces, if that makes sense. So when I came out as Asexual, she knew about it, but not a lot about it. So in a way, my activism has been a learning point for her. And also, the favorite part of her learning curve about Asexuality is the cake, because she loves to cook.

Courtney: Yeah, it’s so fun! And she gets so creative. And it’s always, like, done in the Ace colors and frosted and decorated. And that is just such a bright spot. Like, number one cake ally: I am going to give that to her for sure. And since it was a bit of a learning point for her, as I’m sure it is for a lot of parents of Aces out there, when was it that you came out? And what can you tell us about what your journey, first, of learning that you’re Ace is, and then the actual coming out process to people who maybe didn’t get everything right off the bat?

Marshall: Well, I’ve always known that I was different, but I couldn’t pinpoint my sexuality. So, I pretty much spent years… I think, like a lot of Ace people before they come out or before they even know the name to their identity and the way trying and to — well, for me, it was less about fitting in and just more about just, like, being a teenager, having fun with my friends, stuff like that. But there was a time where dating and, like, the talk of dating and sex was thrown in, but it was nothing that really attracted me. But it was one of those things where you just know you’re different, but you didn’t — you weren’t straight, you weren’t gay, you just felt somewhere in between.

Marshall: So it was coming towards late 2015, 2016, where I actually came out to my sister-in-law, where I didn’t know how to come out, but I just said, basically, “I don’t know how I feel about people.” And she said, basically, “Maybe you’re Asexual.” And I’m like, “Uh, what is that?” Then she sent me literally a link to an organization — or I think it was Google. And, basically, I looked it up, and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s me.” And it was, like, one of those, like, when a lightbulb goes off type thing. Like, it just was one of those things where my life was shifting, and so was society, in a way, where 2016 was a very pivotal point to where things were heading for us in the 2020s. So I kind of find it ironic that I would come out at the time.

Courtney: And it seems like not too long after discovering that and coming out, you just sort of dived into doing all of these activism projects and education. And was that something that was very natural for you to do and just sort of happened organically? Or did you see a need that you just, like, needed to fill, even if it wasn’t in your comfort zone right off the bat?

Marshall: I didn’t really have being an activist in my cards. It was like one of those things where I just fell into, mainly because I experienced a lot of acephobia. I decided to go out to queer spaces, and when I started to say, “Hey, I’m Asexual, I’m a part of community,” you got, like, a lot of pushback to people who either didn’t understand it or they just felt like, “How can you have a sexuality without sex?” Where it’s just like, I told them that it’s not that. It’s way more complex than that. And they still don’t want to get it. It’s almost like that infamous episode of House.

Courtney: [laughs] Yes, we’re familiar with that one.

Marshall: Yeah. It’s, like, something that’s been haunting for decades — well, haunting for a little bit over a decade now. And it seemed like those tropes and those stereotypes hit me. And I’m the type of person that, if I find out who I am, and I’m born who I am, I’m not apologetic about it. I just naturally — it’s kind of like, you’re not going to mess with who I am and my community. And my activism just fell into… wearing a flag to the grocery store randomly, wearing pride buttons, which I still do. It’s like one of those things where it also showed that activism is a very complex thing as well. Because a lot of people just assume that activism is just public speaking and stuff. But there are ways that you can be an activist at your comfort level and without putting yourself in harm’s way, but also getting your word out there.

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. And there are actually — there are a couple of different organizations that you’ve worked with, which, I’d love to hear a little more about how you sort of came into those roles and what you’re doing there. Because I believe you were on the Pennsylvania LGBTQ Commission.

Marshall: I’m actually still on it now. I’m on the LGBTQ Committee on LGBTQ Affairs. It’s a tongue twister.

Courtney: Ah, okay. I knew it was something along those lines, but every state kind of has their own take —

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: — on what that committee is, what the verbiage they use is.

Marshall: And I was initially on the city’s LGBTQ Board, but I had a falling-out with my Mayor’s administration where… It was in response to a protest that went horribly wrong. And someone — trigger warning. A girl got kicked in the middle of the street. And basically the Mayor said that the video — which was seen by thousands of people across the globe — that it was doctored. It was, like, faked. And I actually did not feel safe at City Hall anymore. As it is, I am a Black queer person walking into City Hall in a very white administration. I don’t need to give them my work constantly.

Marshall: So I was like, I went online and just did a whole paragraph on Facebook about quitting. And it started a very interesting conversation. Because even that story became whitewashed, in a way, where a white activist — who I am friends with — they got more of the lede of the news about their withdrawal, where it’s me. I had to… It took a local newspaper by the name of Erie Reader. A person who writes for it, his name is Nick Warren — which, shout out to you if you’re hearing this — he gave me an opportunity to voice what really happened, how I felt. And it really gave light to how activism in 2020 was really, really something that was very serious. And it led me to jumping to going from the city to, now, having my work in the state, and now having enough power to… making sure that my work gets around in the world, essentially.

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. And that is such an important conversation to have. Because we have all these activists that we can look up to and aspire to be like, or they can just show us representation in the world. But sometimes they are put in situations that don’t feel safe, that don’t feel comfortable. And like you said, being a Black queer person, I’m really glad that someone was able to shine a spotlight on that. Because it it does seem to be the case that white folks get the most media attention.

Marshall: Yes. It’s difficult because a lot of the people I work alongside with in terms of activism, while we are acquaintances and friends, in these spaces, we don’t get the same type of media that everyone else does. It is difficult, but it actually makes me more determined to get my work out there for the community. It’s not easy being one of the very few Black Asexual men who are doing the work. So it just gives me, like, a very interesting leeway into saying, “We’re here.”

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. It is so important to have that representation, and to have that on your local level I think is extremely important, too. Because we can have, you know, the biggest Twitter following in the world, but if we aren’t actually trying to represent our local areas and actually push for change and be a voice to someone who, you know, can help shape policy, a lot of things can still sort of fall by the wayside there. And if I’m not mistaken, you’ve also been on the Board of Asexual Outreach. Is that right?

Marshall: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. We are still up and running it. We are trying to figure out where to go in the future with it. But it’s definitely been a very powerful resource to have. It’s a good way to get connected to the community across Canada and the United States. It’s a powerful resource to have now, especially with everything going on, where there may have been people who need a place where they can look at and say, “I need to go there eventually.”

Courtney: Yeah. I’m such a fan of Asexual Outreach. And I’m very excited to see what you all are able to do in the future. Because if I’m not mistaken, Asexual Outreach was the first actually registered Asexual nonprofit, which is fabulous. Because the name that everyone always pulls out — like, the big name that we all know — is AVEN, right? And AVEN will be the one that will be quoted in all the articles. That’s where people get sent for resources. But although they’re the biggest and most well-known, they aren’t the only one. And there are other organizations that are doing a lot of really necessary work. And Asexual Outreach actually overtook — or they took over sort of facilitating Ace Week at the end of October too. So that’s a big celebration. It’s the longest-running Ace Pride event that I’m familiar with.

Marshall: Yes. It’s, like, one of those things where it’s been a lot of progress, a lot of work. It also helped me. Like, it’s nice to have a team that actually helped me get Ace Week to be recognized in a commonwealth state, Pennsylvania. It was a… amazing thing to achieve for the state, for Ace Pennsylvanians, and even Ace people around the world, because it’s just nice to make sure that Ace people are recognized by any form of government.

Marshall: But I think with Asexual Outreach, what makes me proud to be on that Board is that it’s very grassroots, if that makes sense. And people really know who’s behind the operation. I definitely make sure that I make people know that I am involved in Asexual Outreach. And if they need a link to the website, I give it out and stuff. It’s one of those things where it makes me very proud to be part of.

Courtney: Yeah! I think that transparency is fabulous, because there are definitely some organizations that you wouldn’t even really know who to contact if you wanted to get in touch with someone. If you haven’t personally already been involved in the organization, there isn’t really a, like, “Here’s all of our folks. Here’s what everyone’s role is.” And everything is very, very transparent on Asexual Outreach. So I definitely appreciate them for that.

Marshall: Aw, thanks. It makes me very proud to see people interact with the website. It’s a fun website to use. You can actually get involved in activism or advocacy. And it’s a good learning tool for people who are allo and they want to know more about Asexuality. It definitely feels great being part of a organization where it may be small, but it’s growing organically, in the sense of reaching out to the community constantly and make sure that we’re on the ball of what’s to come in the future with everything going on. I definitely have a idea, but I don’t know if it’s going to materialize. But it’s one of those tricky things where — like, what’s happening in Florida and what’s happening in Texas, Oklahoma — there are a lot of Ace people who need resources to flee to other states. I definitely have an idea, which I unfortunately can’t name now, but I hope Asexual Outreach can be a part of helping people go to safety.

Courtney: Yeah, that would be really cool to see in the future. And I know I will be eagerly awaiting to see what the next step sort of is for that organization. So we’ll share things out as we see them when they come to fruition.

Marshall: Yes. I can’t wait to see what the future of, like, the community is going to be like. So far, for example, with Yasmin Benoit being, like, Grand Marshal of one of the largest Pride parades in the country.

Courtney: Yeah, that was a very cool announcement.

Marshall: Yes. Even my mom was very excited about it. Because she’s like, “I feel like y’all don’t get the recognition that y’all deserve.” And to have — to be Grand Marshal an Asexual in one of the largest parades in the country is just amazing.

Courtney: Oh, yeah! One of the largest parades in the world, too. I mean, there are still, you know, petty people online who will argue, “Oh, Aces don’t belong in the community.” It’s like, “Well…”

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: “NYC Pride begs to differ!”

Marshall: Yes. I mean, we’re literally outside… I always argue with people who say, “What makes you queer?” And I’m like, “We are outside of the heteronormative view of sexuality. So that’s what makes us queer.” And still, you got the people who are like, “Well, you still don’t belong,” or “You still don’t do this.” But my activism is pretty much taking up space, if that makes sense. Making sure that we’re seen. Like, I always wear my, like, Pride pins wherever I go. I always bring my flag if I want to put it on, especially around Pride.

Marshall: I think it’s very important to make sure people know about us. Because we are a growing community, and people need to be aware of us existing. And also, I don’t want people my age or younger to go through what I went through coming out. Because while it was freeing to come out the way I did, it was also, in a ways, a bumpy road, because you had people who took it as a joke and people who took it as, like, “You’re just trying to be different,” stuff like that. And I’m like, “I’m not trying to. I am different.”

Courtney: Yeah! [laughs] That’s kind of been the narrative lately. Whether it be for Aces or Aros or anyone who uses some type of microlabel for any niche within the LGBTQIA+ community, the sort of go-to has been, like, “Oh, you just want to feel special.”

Royce: It’s always such a weird comment, because why would someone volunteer to get harassed?

Marshall: Yes!

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: Like, I wake up every day and say, “Ooh, I want to be potentially, like, harassed today at the grocery store.” And I actually almost was once, but it was by someone I knew since the mid-90s at a local grocery store, where… She knows — like, I wear my pride pins everywhere I go. She sees them. They’re obvious. They’re big. I mean, like, you can see them. But she literally asked me, in front of a young cash register person, “So, where’s your girlfriend?”

Courtney: Ugh.

Marshall: And I immediately said, “I’m queer.” And it was, like, dead silence. And the girl that was checking me out was, like, chuckling. I’m like —

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: Yeah.

Courtney: [laughs] Good for her!

Marshall: Yeah. And she’s like, “Ooh, I’m sorry.” I’m like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Not every man that you see here is into women or men or anyone sexually.”

Courtney: Yeah! And the thing about that comment in particular — I know that’s a thing that people say sometimes. Like, I’ve heard things like that too, like, “Oh, where’s your boyfriend?” Or actually, more often, it’s like, I’m at a queer bar, lately, and [laughing] someone would be like, “So, where’s your… significant other?” And it’s, like, the assumption that everyone has one… It’s either a base assumption or they’re, like, fishing for information for you in a very weird, assumptive way. And I just think, whether you know someone or not, whether they’re queer or not, even if it is a cishet person, maybe they’re just single. Maybe they like it that way. Maybe it’s a point of contention. But either way, why would you just start like that? It’s almost in the same line as, like, if you are in a partnership, if you are part of a couple, and people are like, “Oh, so when are you having those kids?” Like…

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: When did I tell you I was definitely going to have kids?

Marshall: That’s, like, one of the most annoying things, because people just lay out… I think it’s one of the biggest things about being Asexual and experiencing an allonormative family, even a social group, where they have expectations for you even if they don’t know you. And it’s just so — it’s just very annoying. And I had a family member come up to me at my brother’s wedding. And that alone was a very weird experience because it was giving very, like, hetero. Like, I just wanted to immediately take off my tuxedo in the middle of the dance floor and put on my nasty t-shirt, my pins, and my hat, and just call it a day.

Courtney: [laughs] “This environment is too hetero for me.” [laughs]

Marshall: It is. And it was. And basically, my relative was like, “Don’t wait to get too old to get married.” I’m like, “Number one, who says you’re invited?”

Courtney: [laughs] Oooh, wow!

Marshall: [laughing] “Number two, no. You’re going to be waiting a long time. You might want to get a wheelchair.” [laughs]

Courtney: Wow. The perfect gateway is like, “Oh, well, who said [laughing] you’re going to be invited?” Oh, that’s so shady. I love it.

Marshall: It’s kind of like… I was like, “How dare you invite yourself to the wedding I’m not going to have?” Like, it’s like one of those things where it’s like, even the boundaries of that are crossed. Like, if I don’t know you, or if I don’t trust you to cross — it’ll be at my boundaries. It’s like, “Why would I want to invite you to something that’s very special to me?”

Marshall: And again, I feel free… Like, a lot of Asexual people are in relationships. A lot of Asexual people are married. I just happen to be one of the Asexuals that just… and, just, I like being single. I like independence. I’m not alone. There’s eight billion people on earth. Like, it’s just… like, it’s hard to say “I’m alone.” ’Cause I could go to the gas station down the street from my house and be like, “So, hey, how’s your day going?” and not feel alone. Stuff like that.

Marshall: I enjoy company like that, but when it comes to partnership… Like, my mom asked me if I was one day, in the future, going to be in a partnership — like, in a relationship. I’m like, “Maybe. It’s not a no. But maybe — like, for going out to a movie, a cafe, but not necessarily…” It’s just, I just enjoy my alone time a lot.

Courtney: Yeah! And I mean, I’ll tell you what, too. Because obviously, I mean, we are a married Ace couple, and we are monogamous. But for me, like, I did not meet Royce until I got super comfortable and happy with the idea of being single. And I think that’s one of the big keys to finding happiness within a relationship, even if that is something you’re aspiring toward. Because earlier in my life, where I had all these societal pressures to be in relationships, and lots of people — like, if I was ever single for half a second, a dozen people would ask me out all at once. And it’s like, nobody would give me any space to just be.

Courtney: Once I got to a point where I was like, “You know what? I’m happy alone. I am content. I am not actively looking for a relationship,” then [laughing] I just so happened to find Royce. and that was just fine. But I think there can be a lot of unhealthy relationships that start because of a societal pressure to be in a relationship. And maybe people hold on to relationships that aren’t working a little too long for those reasons, also. So I think whether or not a relationship is ever in the cards for any given person in the future, I think learning how to be content and happy alone is still just a valuable life skill in general.

Marshall: Yeah. It’s like, I didn’t grow up with a lot of pressure of finding someone, especially when I was a teenager. I think — so, like, my mom wanted me to stay a kid for longer, which, in a ways, I did. But at the same time, it’s just like, I knew. I think once I found my label, I felt like the social pressures just dropped, like, immediately. I found out, like, more about myself when I came out as Asexual.

Marshall: And it also changed a lot of my relationships with people. And I think it even took… Let’s say, my parents, for instance. Just the transparency I have with my parents about my sexuality — it helps out a lot, especially me talking to my mom… Me and my mom are, like, best friends, and we talk about a lot of stuff when we basically bake these cakes. And basically, in a way, it’s almost like she’s unpacking, like, kind of like the social expectations of what it is around growing up, like, in terms of relationships and how you have relationships with people. But in a way, it’s definitely made our bond stronger, in a sense where we have more of an understanding, where I wish every single family bond or friend bond was like that.

Marshall: But you still have people who are very question mark about it. Some people would be like, “So, where’s your girlfriend?” or “When are you gonna get married?” Stuff like that. Where my mom is the type of person where, if she heard that, she would, like, [frustrated noise] “Arr…” Like, kind of like that. [laughs]

Courtney: [laughs] So she definitely plays Mama Bear a bit, huh?

Marshall: She said she doesn’t care if I’m 80, 90, 100, I’m still her kid. So, she’s that type of person. Like, she does not want anyone to come into my space and harass me and try to erase my uniqueness. And being one of the very, very, very few Asexual people in my family — I think the only openly one on my dad’s side of the family — it’s something that… it’s both challenging and also rewarding, in the sense where I can just be myself and have that protection of my parents.

Courtney: Well, and that’s so important, too, for activists or anyone that’s going to be very, very visible as a queer person, because activism can be exhausting.

Marshall: It is.

Courtney: And even if you don’t have parents who are as supportive, you’ve still got to have some kind of support system, whether it’s a best friend, a partner, a spouse, a queerplatonic relationship, or just a really healthy, like, group of friends. Having some kind of support system is so vital [laughing] as a queer person. Because you can have the worst day in the world at a rally, at a political meeting, online, but to have someone who’s just, like, a real person who just loves you and sees you for who you are is imperative.

Marshall: It’s very important. It’s very important, especially in days like these. And I told this one kid who… He’s a local kid and basically wanted to get into activism and literally inboxed me saying that they wanted to be in activism. And they gave me a set of rules of, like, “I don’t want to be told certain things.” Like, “I want my privacy to be kept secret.” I’m like, “Once you step into world of activism, privacy is not something you are afforded — except for your, of course, your very personal stuff.” But your life, in a way, is an open window, in a sense of, like, people know who you are, people know, pretty much, who you affiliate with, and et cetera. And I think where they were trying to get was, they wanted to have, like, a very custom-made activist role. And I’m like, “Activism is messy. It’s not something you eat with a knife and fork. It’s something that you have to pick up and, like, almost shovel in your face, like a pizza. Like a good slice of cake.”

Courtney: Yeah! It can get really messy, and it can also be very rewarding. And surely, if you’re someone who wants or needs anonymity, there are still some things that you can do. Like, there are tasks you can volunteer for within the greater fight for social justice. There’s, like, text banking, where you can volunteer for an organization and text a bunch of people about legislation coming out, help people get out to vote. And those are things that are great for people that need to stay anonymous.

Courtney: But a lot of local activism does need to have some level of transparency. Because if you’re going out to a protest, you’re going to be there in a crowd of people. If you are speaking against a bill, you’re going to be physically present in a City Hall kind of a situation. And even just, you know, grassroots meetings… Even throughout the pandemic, I noticed, when a lot of local activism meetings started becoming more virtual more often, especially amongst trans community members, it’s always been very important: if you’re coming to these meetings, cameras on.

Courtney: And so many people have gotten very comfortable on, like, Zoom calls, just keeping their camera off, especially if it’s a big group and some people have their cameras on. They’re like, “I’ll just not do this.” But the most marginalized members of our community — like, a lot of Black trans women are like, “We can’t play with our safety like that. We need to know who is in this meeting. We need to know that someone behind the, you know, screen with the camera off isn’t, you know, white Republican man. We have to know there isn’t a Proud Boy sitting here spying on us.” Like, a lot of it does, for everybody’s shared safety, need to have some level of transparency. Which is a little bit of a paradox, because in some ways, if you get visible enough as a marginalized person, you to some extent will have a target on your back.

Marshall: Oh, definitely. And being activists in 2020 through now, I think because things are so polarized now, even if you — say, with the recent Bud Light situation, even if you chose to — say you drank a Bud Light, now you’re thrown into the mess. And it’s unfortunate that the most marginalized in our community can’t thrive without such hatred. Like, what’s wrong with having a sponsor? It’s like one of those things I’ll never understand. I think there would be a time in the future where we’re going to look back at this and we’re going to be like, “Wow, what the hell? Where were we?”

Courtney: Yeah.

Marshall: Hopefully that will be soon, rather than, like, 2040 or 2050. And it’s very interesting in a sense that being an activist, especially in a space where you are, like, one of the only or very few Black activists in the space, sometimes your voice is unheard, or it’s just viewed as little, but you have a very big target on your back. And it’s just… it’s a lot to work up against. It’s like climbing Mount Everest, in a way, where if you’re coming into the scene, if you’re an activist, especially if you’re Black and queer, it’s going to take months, up to years, to get to the point where, let’s just say, someone who’s white and getting into activism, it’ll take them a matter of a month, month or two. And sometimes, it could be very challenging, but I wouldn’t give up. And I hope that changes, too, in a sense where if you are Black and queer and jumping into activism, that you get the same amount of visibility and hope without having a target as a lot of white activists.

Marshall: And that’s a big thing that happened in the Ace community, where a lot of our work… If you speak to a lot of Black Asexual people, a lot of us tend to feel like we are ignored, in a sense. It’s only times where, like, right now, like, you’re offering me a platform on your space, which is very helpful. It’s very sad that it takes years for us to do something where, for other people, it would take a month.

Courtney: It is very interesting. Because in some ways, over the last couple of years, the community has started getting better about talking about intersectionality. But one thing that — Royce, you and I have kind of had private conversations about this. A lot of people don’t know that I was around before we started this podcast, but it wasn’t The Ace Couple, Courtney and Royce. It was just Courtney, the disabled, mixed-race woman who wants to talk about disability and Asexuality, and I want to talk about race and Asexuality, and I want to talk about all these other things. But I would get mass-harassed by people in our community, and that would make me, like, walk away for a couple months and not want to say anything again because of the sheer amount of hatred.

Royce: And we have talked behind closed doors: Well, what happened? Did the community get better in a year or two? Or the fact that I’m here — is that just changing perception?

Courtney: That’s another thing, too, because it’s like, well, that’s really the only thing that’s changed, is now I’m not just Courtney. I am in proximity to Royce, who is completely white. And also, the thing with voices getting amplified — this is something I really want to make clear because I don’t think a lot of people realize this. Because technically speaking, if you look at the surveys — like, the Ace Community Surveys and a lot of analytics for, like, Ace content that gets consumed, it does skew more heavily women and nonbinary folks than men. So people will take that and say, “Well, Ace men are a minority in this community.” And that is true by a numbers standpoint. But I see a distinct difference between a white man who comes on the scene talking about Asexuality and an Ace man with any other marginalized intersectional identity going on. Because while it’s true that by numbers, there are fewer men talking about Asexuality, white men have their voice amplified so much faster and louder than other members of the community.

Royce: Yeah. If you were to compare the, like, quantitized representation or reach, it’s way disproportionate with the actual, like, population demographic percentage of white men in the Ace community.

Marshall: Yeah, it’s definitely one of those things where, like, in activism in a space like the Ace community where it gets very exhausting when intersectionality becomes trendy to other people, where to me it’s everyday life. Like, I’m always going to be Black Asexual. I’m always be African-American Asexual. And it impacts how people view me and how people will perceive me and how they will approach me. Like, it’s like one of those things where I wouldn’t be perceived as, like, let’s just say the face of, quote-unquote, Asexuality, where there are millions of Asexual people who look like me.

Marshall: But I do see it changing slightly, but I think the community has to get out of the cycle-type situation where, like… when, like, 2020, where it was big, like, Black Lives Matter, it was like, “We want to give you all money, we want to give you all resources.” Then 2021 comes, and it’s just radio silence. And it feels like 2020 was just a different decade. Like, it felt like we went from the 1960s all the way to the 1990s, in a sense, where it feels like people forgot about our stories and forgot about how the whole George Floyd situation impacted us and our health.

Marshall: And I always call it out, but I’ve always expected to fall back into — and I’ll probably say it again in the next two months. It’s like one of those things where it’s like being on a broken record. But I do see it changing because of… let’s just say, I do have a growing number of people who follow me who are seeing my work, and also the Asexual goddess, Yasmin Benoit, et cetera, et cetera. Our work is growing. It’s being viewed by different people. But it still took us a lot of time — a lot of time and a lot of effort — to get to the point where we’re at. Again, it’s worth it. But I just wish people would understand that you have to remember that Asexuality is many faces, many backgrounds, religions, races, ethnicities, et cetera.

Marshall: That’s why I made that video on my YouTube channel, “Is racism a thing in the Ace community?” where I did say that there’s a stereotype in a community that Asexuality is a white thing, and a lot of people do take advantage of that stereotype. A lot of people got it very well, and some people were kind of like, “I just hate that everything revolves around race.” But unfortunately, because of the society that we live in, most things evolve around race — unfortunately, down to health care.

Courtney: Mmm-hmm.

Marshall: Health care — how people receive treatment. How people are viewed walking down the street in their own neighborhoods, et cetera, et cetera. But I think, as time goes on and more education is put out there, I think people will get better in the community about that. But I think we had to break the cycle of, like, it just comes around, I mean, every other month.

Courtney: Yeah, it really — it’s so unfortunate. Because at least from sort of the social media sphere that we inhabit, like, the Ace community is very fractured in some ways. There’s like an Ace Twitter and then there are Ace Discord servers and then there is AVEN. And there doesn’t seem to be just, like, one solid community. There are just these little splinter fraction communities. But at least on Ace Twitter, what I’ve observed is that racism in and out of the community becomes an occasionally trending topic. Like, someone will bring it up in a way that gets big enough, it gets enough retweets, that everyone will be retweeting everyone else, and everyone’s talking about this. And Ace Twitter’s in a frenzy about racism for a week or two, and then it’s just gone.

Marshall: It’s gone.

Courtney: Like, “Okay, well, we’ll see you next time it becomes a trending topic.”

Marshall: It’s like a music genre. It’s like disco, for instance.

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: Disco had its time in the sun. It was a great genre. Then, by 1980, people are like, “It’s just so ’70s. Just dump it and forget about it.” And now it’s having a moment again, which again, even that was impacted by how people, again, view Black and people of color and queer people. And I think it’s like one of those things where people need to be aware how linked, like, racism is into spaces that are queer. Like, I hear a lot of people who are hetero and allo who would say, “I didn’t know there was racism in the Ace community!” I’m kind of like, “There is!”

Courtney: Yeah.

Marshall: “There’s quite a lot.” I think one of the biggest moments, which, I’m not going to name names, but it’s like, one of the moments where a Black Asexual woman speaks up about something. They get a lot of hatred for it. And now that a white Ace person brings it up, they get praised for bringing it up — which again, I’m happy that they’re able to get their story out there, but people really switch their attitudes when that person came out about the story about that particular person, when the Black Asexual woman did. And it was something — I didn’t see it as, “Oh, this person is getting what they deserve, finally.” But it’s kind of like a, “Wow, this is really a ball dropping again” type situation.

Courtney: Yeah, it’s a matter of not listening to a Black Ace woman when she speaks up, or not believing her. Because what I think the community really needs — the white members of the community in particular — they need to sort of hone their skills for identifying racism. Because it is very easy, if you are a white person, to ignore the racism, and sometimes it will genuinely just go over your head, because it’s not affecting you. And not everything’s as overt as, like, being called a slur. Like, if you’re looking for that, you probably aren’t going to find that in our small communities. But it’s the more subtle things. It’s the fact, like, whose voice is getting amplified over someone else’s? Did a Black Ace talk about this two or three years ago and no one paid attention and they got hate for it, but now a white Ace brings it up and everyone’s concerned about it? It’s those subtler things. And I think not a lot… people who haven’t experienced racism in their own life don’t always know how to identify that. So if they hear that there’s racism in the community, they say, “Well, that’s bad, and I want to help that.” But a lot of people don’t know how to help that because they don’t even know how to identify it for themselves.

Marshall: Yeah, it’s like one of the things where I’m happy people are seeing it now. I think people are definitely seeing it more now that things have settled down more. I think people are looking back and say, “Huh.” The reactions were kinda… It’s a very stark difference. But it’s like one of those things where I hope that things improve in the community. And I think Yasmin, for instance, being a Grand Marshal of this parade is a big deal and a step forward for Black Asexual folk and Asexual folk in general, and to see that it makes me very proud of them and very proud of us as a community, that even though we make up a very, very, very small proportion of the population, we are making huge steps into the future.

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. It is very… As with any social justice fight, there is always incremental progress being made. There always is. So it’s always a little bit better than it used to be. But it is very easy to see the places where we are sliding backwards a little bit and get way too discouraged. But even when there’s a big step back, there are always several little steps forward that are just always happening. So there is a time and a place for being disheartened by seeing things slip back in time. But there’s also a time and a place to say, “Look, this is progress.”

Marshall: It’s like how cake, now, is just getting its moment now, I think. Even though it’s been a symbol in our community since the early 2000s, I think I’m definitely enjoying, like, seeing the reactions of both Asexual people and allo people when it comes to Ace cakes. And I think my mom definitely enjoys, number one, the time we have to talk while we make this cake and stuff, and, like, the ideas that she has. She’s more excited about making Ace cakes than I am.

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: She more of the baker.

Courtney: That’s darling, though. [laughs]

Marshall: Yes. I like to cook. I like to cook stuff. I don’t really like to bake. I think baking’s messy. But I love cakes. [laughs] I think it’s one of the biggest things that I’m happy that’s getting intertwined in physical life, outside of online, where I do know that cake started off as, like, how do you say it? A “gaf” or a “gif”? Like, the idea of… on AVEN?

Courtney: Yeah! It was interesting, because on AVEN, before there was ever… like, before there were any cake gifs or before they had, like, the cake emoji — I think it was before the word “emoji,” though, so it was probably called an emoticon. [laughs]

Marshall: Oh, like, that —

Courtney: Let’s all age ourselves just a little bit here.

[Courtney and Marshall laugh]

Courtney: But even before there was, like, a graphic for a cake that people would use on AVEN, you can go back to these old forums, and people would be, like, welcoming new members and say, “Hey, welcome, have a slice of cake!”

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: And I’d even see, you know, Aces from the UK offering, like… I don’t know, I had to Google them because I didn’t recognize the brand, but I get the impression they’re, like, the equivalent of, like, British Little Debbies. Like, little baked good wrapper cake things. [laughs] And they’d be like, “Oh, welcome, have one of these!” And so even if you aren’t saying the word “cake,” they’re getting, like, really specific about the things they’re theoretically offering these new people. And it’s like, that has been such a staple of community-building, and that’s what I love. Because it doesn’t just represent “Cakes are for Aces.” It represents coming together over a cake, sharing a cake, gifting cake. That’s the community-building. And that’s something that I think our community could really benefit from more of because we are so fractured and splintered.

Courtney: And I will say as well — and any links we mention, as usual, listeners, are going to be in the show notes, so you can definitely pop down and see Marshall’s YouTube video, for example, the cake article. But if you are, especially, a white Ace — it’s not just for white Aces, but especially if you’re someone who needs a little help learning how to identify the racism in the community, we do have our Aspecs Committed to Anti-racism Discord, ACAR for short. That is still alive. It is still active. I am the creator / one of the moderators of it, and we have conversations like this all the time. Because I saw the trending topic — like, “Oop, race is a topic again. Now nobody is talking about it. Oop, race is a topic again.” So I wanted there to be more of an ongoing conversation, but also more community-focused, not just tweeting at each other saying, “Hey, silly, do something about the racism issue!” and then nothing ever gets done. Like, let’s build a community! Let’s have cake together and combat these issues!

Marshall: Yes. I think that’s one of the sweetest, sweetest things about our community is, while we do have a lot of issues, we are still very close-knit. Even at times where we kind of beefing with each other, we still have time for a slice of cake. It’s just one of the things where I think… I do have a lot of hope for the community. I do think cake, in a way, is one of the things that’s going to help it. Like on YouTube, for example — I’m making my return to YouTube after 11 months. They’re probably going to be mad at me and say, “I thought you were dead” —

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: — but I’m kind of like, “I’m here,” [laughs] but I’m actually doing a thing where I’m listing my cake recommendations to what you want to bring to a Ace meetup.

Courtney: Yes! [laughs]

Marshall: Yeah. I’m listing five cakes and maybe one dishonorable mention —

Courtney: Oooh.

Marshall: — that I think, like, Ace people can kind of agree with, and even allo people can agree with. Yeah, it’s like, it’s very cool to have, like, cake as a centerpiece of your culture. Sometimes I forget that cake is a major… It’s so big that I forget that it’s the major part of who I am. Being African-American, I did grow up with a lot of, like, say, German chocolate cakes, caramel cakes.

Courtney: Ooh, yum.

Marshall: Yeah, red velvet cakes.

Courtney: Mmm.

Marshall: Red velvet cake is a very important staple for Juneteenth —

Courtney: Yeah.

Marshall: — because it’s red, and a lot of people… It’s one of those things where even that intertwined in identity. And people need to definitely know more about it. But my mom is here! Would y’all want to say hi real quick?

Courtney: Yes! Bring her on! Absolutely. Hi!

Marcia: Yay! Hi, everybody! [laughs]

Courtney: Hello! How are you today?

Marcia: Good to meet you. [laughs]

Courtney: Good to meet you, too, at long last. I’m such a fan of your cakes and your son. [laughs]

Marcia: Oh my gosh! [laughs] You like my cakes? I really put so much into them. [laughs]

Courtney: It shows! It’s truly one of the highlights of Ace Twitter every time we have a Pride event for International Asexuality Day or Ace Week.

Marcia: Thank you so much. I’m in full support of all, everything. So I wanted to see, how could I support this the way I can? Cake! [laughs]

Courtney: There’s no better way for Aces! That is spot-on. It is beautiful.

Marcia: Oh, that’s great. Well, I’m glad you look forward to it. And I’m glad to be able to put in my support to you guys, and with my gentle giant here.

[Marshall and Marcia laugh]

Courtney: He is my absolute favorite.

[Marshall and Marcia laugh]

Courtney: He does a lot of good work for the community. So we definitely, definitely appreciate him. We appreciate you. We appreciate your cakes. I think the relationship you two have is just one of the coolest things, and I’m sure is so important for a lot of young queer people to see, because not everybody gets such an awesome, supportive mother as you are, so.

Marcia: I don’t understand how you couldn’t be. You have a child. They’re yours for life. And I don’t see how it could be any other way. But that’s what he is to me.

[Marshall and Marcia laugh]

Marcia: And his friends are my friends, so thank you so much.

Courtney: No, thank you, really.

Marcia: Well, I’ll try to keep the cakes coming.

[Marshall, Courtney, and Marcia laugh]

Courtney: We will look forward to them.

Marcia: Alright. You have a good day. Thank you.

Courtney: Yes, you have a good one!

Marshall: Like, my mom often feels like she doesn’t get, like, a lot of, like… She doesn’t feel like she does enough. But I’m like, “You’re doing something that’s very wonderful. You are really helping community stay together,” and stuff.

Courtney: Yeah, I do not know any other, like, Ace Cake Moms that so regularly make Ace cakes [laughing] that get featured online. Like, that’s who she is. She’s the Ace Cake Mom.

Marshall: Yeah, she just adores it. She cannot wait until, like, Ace Week. And she actually just told me recently, it was like, “If there is another Asexual holiday that is being made, make sure that I know about it.”

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: “So I get my recipes.” I’m like, “Okay.” And she does not care — like, she works night shift, and she does not care if she stays up, like, the entire day. She said, “I’m not sleeping until I get this cake done. I need you to take pictures of it. I need you to take over ten pictures, so you have it archived.” I’m like, “Okay, okay, okay.” And she was like… She gets very excited. And she just loves the fact of being part of history. Because she’s a nurse, and she remembers a time… She became a nurse in the late ’80s —

Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.

Marshall: — so she knows a lot of the history of the community and what we’ve been through. So in this way, she feels like she’s helping our community advance well into the twenty-first century, which is very cool.

Courtney: That is so cool. I mean, she’s an angel, really. A nurse and an Ace Cake Mom. Like, super, super cool. I absolutely love that. And yeah, I’m going to have to just do an episode about the history of cake, all the things that I couldn’t fit in the article. Because they paid me to write 1000 words, and I was like, “I’ve never only written a thousand words on a single topic in my life.” [laughs] So.

Marshall: I was like, “How did you write…” To me, that was a lot. Like, I was like, “How did you do this in this small span of time?”

Royce: Courtney, didn’t you write, like, three times the article length that you could actually have, and then the difficult part was paring it down?

Courtney: Yeah. My first draft, when I was trying to keep it brief, was, like, over 3000 words. And then I had to cut down a whole bunch. And it was really, really something. Because I have all these different facts that pertain to AVEN, the history of the Ace community. I actually, in my original draft, I had a few more quotes of yours that you had given me when I interviewed you, and my editor was like, “I’m loving all these quotes from Marshall, but you haven’t said a single word about what cake means to you in your life.” And I’m like, “That’s not the important thing!” And they’re like, “You’ve gotta add something about your own relationship to cake.” And I was like, “Fine.” [laughing] I fit it in at the bottom.

Marshall: It’s, like, one of those things where… like, I’m the type of person where, like, I don’t really admit this to a lot of people, but I don’t particularly like being the center of attention. I just turned 30 and I didn’t want a party at all. I told someone, “Do not throw me a 30th birthday party. Let’s just go out, and I’ll just get a birthday cake from Giant Eagle.” Giant Eagle makes the best birthday cakes. If you’re ever in Western Pennsylvania, try it out.

Marshall: But I am… like, I’m very happy to, like, collab with people in terms of articles and stuff, because I don’t like being the only person in that spot. And I always like being the person that… Say someone does offer me a spot into, like, an article like you did. It makes me feel very grateful for that. Because it’s, again, it’s a lot of work doing activism. And there are some periods of time when it’s just quiet, and, like, there is no one really reaching out to you. But it’s nice to have the both of you in the community, because it’s like, y’all have really helped a lot with my work and stuff. And I’m very grateful for y’all.

Courtney: Well, I’m just glad that we have been able to help. I mean, it’s really, for us, for the community. Because I know what it was like. I’m still like, we’re still not the biggest names on Ace Twitter. We’re not the biggest Ace podcast. Like, we’re still kind of small potatoes in some ways. But over the last couple of years, we’ve grown a lot more. And for us, it’s like, well, I remember what it was like when I was trying to talk about these issues for years, and the only time I would get attention was negative. So it’s like, anything I can do to help other people who are also talking about important intersectional issues, it’s like, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to stay community-focused here.

Courtney: And really, I mean, it was funny how that article came to be. Because I’ve just known, for all these years, about cake being this big thing in our community. And most Aces know the cake thing. Whether or not they know where it came from or when it started, they know of it. It’s so present. And I was wondering why nobody was actually writing articles about just, like, “What is the community like,” other than “We’re trying to get people to know we exist! This is the definition of what we are!” I was like, “Let’s show people what our community is and what the heart of us is.” And cake is the natural in to that, because that’s been the longest-running, most widely accepted symbol. And, like, more recently, we have garlic bread. I threw in a couple lines about that. Because it’s the same thing. It’s like, “Garlic bread is better than sex.” It’s just a new iteration of cake. But cake’s been here the whole time.

Courtney: And in fact, I don’t remember what year someone attempted to start this, but long before International Asexuality Day — since that’s only a couple of years old. It’s pretty new. Ace Week is the longest-running Pride celebration for us. Someone on Facebook made a Facebook page and tried to have an Asexuality Day that they literally just called “Cake Day.”

Marshall: Ahh.

Courtney: And I think they did it for a year. I think they might have tried it again for a second year. But I don’t know if the person starting it just burned out. I don’t know if there wasn’t enough attention drawn to it. But it was literally called “Cake Day.” That was what the first, like, big celebration of just “Ace on this day” was named. And I think that’s cool! And a lot of people don’t know that because it didn’t get all that much attention, but.

Marshall: Yeah. Like I said, it’s, like, one of those things where I think, when people start something, it does get exhausting, in terms of, like, having traffic come to your ideas. But hopefully that person can see how cake has grown in the community even more from that point on. I mean, number one, to me you are very iconic in the community. Like, this podcast. I adore the podcast, and —

Courtney: Oh, that is such a big compliment coming from you. Like, I really, really appreciate that. Thank you.

Marshall: Like, it’s very… It’s nice to have a space where you come and, like, just express yourself. And I hope we all just could go somewhere where it’s like, people just know that cake is a big part of our community. And it’s something that hopefully never dies out. Because I know sometimes, like, my mom says, basically, how sometimes communities evolve over time, and something falls out of favor. But I think with cake — which is weird, because — I don’t know, in 2010s, there was, like, a sharp turn to cupcakes.

Courtney: Mmm.

Marshall: Then now, in the 2020s, because of the panoroma, which I will not name —

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: — there’s been kind of like a resurgence of very hearty, very big, like, indulgent cakes.

Courtney: Mhm.

Marshall: So I think it was definitely a perfect time where my mom hopped in, like, in the kitchen and was like, “I want to do this. I have an idea. It’s going to be iconic.” And I’m like, “You do what you want.”

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: “I’m not even going to have… Like, I’m just going to sit here and watch YouTube, and you just go at it.” Because I usually get nervous when people plan something. And I’m like, “Go for it.” And every time, people take very well to it. It’s very cool that… It makes me very happy that she feels like she has a, like… kind of like she’s helping out. And I tell her all the time, you are. It’s like, it’s not something that goes away once you post a picture on Twitter. You are making an impact. Even though you’re not Asexual, you still have a vital role in the community as an ally.

Courtney: Yeah. And cake has this just phenomenal staying power in the community that I have not observed for any of the other symbols. Because I remember when axolotls were, like, the Ace thing. Like, cake was still there at the time, but everyone was like, “Ace axolotls.” And now there are people who don’t know that axolotls are or ever were an Ace thing. There are some people I’ve seen, like, “Oh well, axolotls are probably an Ace thing because there was that Ace axolotl in BoJack Horseman.” It’s like, “No, the character in BoJack Horseman was an axolotl because [laughing] that was already an Ace thing!”

Courtney: And now with the, like… People will have playful conversations of, like, “Oh, are you a cake Ace or a garlic bread Ace?” I’ve been in the community long enough to remember when the discussion was “cake or pie?” Like, that was a discussion. Like, “Oh, are you a cake Ace or a pie Ace?” [laughs] And like, now pie doesn’t get brought up into the conversations anymore, because it’s been essentially replaced with garlic bread. But cake is eternal.

Marshall: Yeah. And I’m very happy those two things are definitely coexisting in our spaces. I’m not — this might give me a lot of heat with garlic bread Aces, but I’m not necessarily a big fan of garlic bread as I am cake. I think garlic bread, you can’t really eat anywhere, because sometimes, I don’t want my breath to smell like garlic when I’m walking around. [laughs] But I am happy that we can coexist in spaces such as this, and we actually talk about what those two items have — like, an importance in our community. But, like, I would be so interested, though, to see someone do, like, a very, very Asexual garlic bread, like multicolored bread with the Ace flag colors on it, and…

Courtney: I bet it’s doable. I’m sure someone has done it before. [laughs]

Marshall: Yeah.

Courtney: I haven’t necessarily seen it. It might be, you know, a more anonymous person or a smaller account, but I’d be shocked if nobody has ever done that before. [laughs]

Marshall: Yeah, it’s definitely something that I think… It probably has been done. But I think, hopefully one day, that someone — it just pops up on Twitter, and just, like, it’s their moment. They have their moment and stuff. Like, that’s why it’s definitely very important to… while stuff like what’s happening with the state politics, with everything going on right now, it’s just we maintain space in a community where we can come to and just just breathe. We can have conversations like this.

Marshall: I think oftentimes, when situations like this happen, where you do have lawmakers who are trying their best to erase us from public life in private, I think it’s one of those things where in different times, there’s different communities, their cultures have declined because of that type of situation. But I think now, people are — especially Gen Z, which, again, shout out to my Gen Z friends out there; y’all are doing the damn thing. I think people have had enough of having people tell them what to do, and telling people who they can and cannot be.

Courtney: Yeah. Enough is enough!

Marshall: It is. Like, I was born in the early ’90s. I remember the time in the ’90s where I thought… Like, my cousin was born in the early 2000s. She had to do, like, an assignment about her year of birth, and basically going back to the time period in pop culture and stuff. It made me feel nostalgic, but at the same time, it makes me happy that I’m alive now. Because I feel like 2000 and before, we wouldn’t have these conversations about who we are. And at times, we couldn’t. Because it was considered a… which, to some people, is a threat still. But back then, it was very, very, very, very, like, you just kept to yourself and you just moved about your day. Like, I can remember, like, just a thing — I remember a time where, if someone came out as gay on TV, that was the big, like, weekly news. Like —

Courtney: Yep.

Marshall: Like, breaking news. Like, every time I see it, people ask me what my fear is whenever I see the CNN “Breaking news” type situation.

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: That makes me — like, every time I see it, I’m just like, “What the hell… What’s happening now?” [laughs] But it felt like that at the time, where if someone came out, it was news for days, where now it’s just like, “Oh, that’s cool.” But you still have people who react very… the people who unfortunately are going to Target now and ransacking stores. The same people who make comments about people in 2020 when we were just all angry and… yeah.

Courtney: Yeah. It’s such a strange time to live in right now. Because, yeah, I do remember, like, “Oh my gosh, Friends is going to show the first gay wedding on TV ever!” [laughing] And that was a great big, huge thing. And, “Oh my goodness, Ellen DeGeneres has her own talk show now! They gave a gay a talk show after they canceled her sitcom earlier!” And so, like, that was such a big… Like, you’re seeing these milestones in media and pop culture, and now we’ve had… I’m not going to say enough gay representation. That’s not the word I’m going for. We’ve had gay milestones frequently enough that they aren’t news anymore. And now, there are even more…

Courtney: Like, I still kind of see that to a certain extent with trans representation. We have had some really positive trans characters in TV shows, movies, some actual trans actors and actresses. But it’s not like, “Okay, yeah, we know. People are allowed to be trans.” It’s still, like, an uproar in many senses. I mean, Elliot Page just came out with his memoir, and people are all in a tizzy about that. All the people who hate trans people — and, more broadly, queer people — are raging about it right now. And it’s like, you know, they just keep moving the target. It’s like, it became less acceptable to be openly homophobic, so they’re like, “Okay, well, we’ll just be transphobic. And we can — we’ve been casually Acephobic this entire time also, so we’ll just double down on that in some ways.”

Courtney: But I mean, Acephobia and transphobia go hand-in-hand so often. And I want more people to be aware of the Acephobia that is deeply ingrained in this and also present. Because a lot of people, a lot of allies, a lot of allo queer people, just ignore the Acephobia. And it always bothers me to a certain extent when people are like, “Well, trans rights are at risk right now, so they get all of the focus, and you shouldn’t be taking focus away.” And it’s like, “We don’t want to take focus away. We want these to be simultaneous conversations happening.” Because it’s truly the same fight. The bigotry inside of the people who hate us comes from, very often, the same place. So we are fighting the same thing. And so… yeah.

Courtney: And, I mean, that goes for Ace people too. If there are Ace people out there that aren’t also, you know, fighting and advocating for trans rights, like, you need to be doing that. That is the same fight. But I don’t think we get as much people saying, like, “We need to also remember the Aces.”

Marshall: Yeah, it’s like one of those things where I think people feel like they can’t do things simultaneously. Like, they can’t be like, “We need to focus on this now and later, because we don’t have the time to do stuff like that.” I don’t think it’s a very appropriate thing to do. Like, I think we have to work on these things because they’re coming at us in many angles. And it’s not pretty at all.

Courtney: No, it’s not. And I mean, in some ways, it parallels the conversation of racism, where someone is sounding the alarm years before anyone takes notice. Because, man, 2021, there was a horrible article about how Asexual people are all groomers and child predators. And that was November of 2021. I saw that article. Everyone I put that article in front of was shocked. And I was like, “This didn’t come out of nowhere. This has been here. I want you to open your eyes and know this has been here.”

Courtney: But then what did we see throughout all of 2022? “The entire queer community are groomers. Trans people are groomers. Drag queens are groomers.” It’s like, I saw that word before it became so prominent — like, just just on the cusp of it really taking off — and it was directed specifically at Asexual people. So we need to be cognizant of the hate that different areas of the community are getting. Because those talking points are going to get recycled all over the place. They’re going to sprinkle all these little hateful nuggets around, and whatever sticks, whatever enrages the most conservatives, that’s what they’re going to go for and apply it to everyone. That’s the strategy.

Marshall: Like, it’s like one of the things where I think my mom asked me — either my mom or one of my siblings — they asked me, like, what are specific words that people use against us. And I’m like, “I think because of our association with the queer community and us being queer ourselves, I think unfortunately, a lot of the slurs come at us too. But I think, for us, it’s more of how we’re treated, if that makes sense, and people’s responses towards us.”

Marshall: I did notice that a lot when I was coming out, where a lot of people were like, “You just need —” Again, trigger warning, invalidation — where someone was like, “Oh, is there a pill you could take?” Or, “Did someone hurt you when you were a kid?” Stuff like that. Or, “Are you a un-aliver?” I’m like, “No! That’s not…” Like, number one, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now. And especially with how the justice system works, I would not be sitting here right now if I was an un-aliver.

Marshall: It’s like one of those things where I think there is going to be a bright ending to what’s happening. I think where we’re at right now is not going to be a forever thing. A lot of people — I know a lot of people are upset about what’s happening, and a lot of people are very concerned about what’s happening, and you have every right to be concerned, because it is concerning that you have people who don’t want you to thrive in life publicly. But I would tell people — especially the younger generation in our communities — that there is definitely gonna be brighter days ahead. It’s just going to take a lot of time.

Marshall: There’s been moments in history where… they were very grim. Like, a lot of my family members were sharecroppers in the 1930s and ’40s, and the next generation, they worked at plants and banks, et cetera. And now I’m a photographer and my mom’s a nurse, et cetera. Like, there are times where it’s going to be dark, but it’s going to be better. Like, just don’t give up.

Marshall: And also, don’t be afraid to speak out, especially if you have the backing of your friends. Make sure you have that first, and your family, before you step out into activism. Because that is very critical, like you said earlier, to have that support system around you when you are an activist — especially where every single day, every single hour, there is bad news —

Courtney: Yeah.

Marshall: — about something that happened to us. And now with, for instance, with Yasmin being the Grand Marshal, I’m pretty sure that there’s going to be comments galore on Twitter.

Courtney: Oh, yeah, I’ve already seen some. They are already coming. [laughs]

Marshall: Like, it does not make sense at all. It does not. How are you this unhappy? Especially if you are LGBTQIA+ and you are mad that literally one of your own is going to be a Grand Marshal for a parade. You really got a lot of unpacking to do. And also, it ties in to, also, how a lot of our history has been erased in terms of how — for instance, like, how Pride started, how a lot of people want to make Pride this party, that Pride this corporatized experience, when really people need to understand that Pride was a riot in the beginning, and it was a backlash against the treatment we got from police. And it was Black and people of color and trans people who started it in terms of fighting back. And to make… I don’t know the name of the movie, but there is really one movie where there was a fictional white character that was leading about Stonewall.

Courtney: Mmm. Mmm [laughing].

Marshall: And that really irked my… Y’all really made a fictional white character to star in such a very pivotal moment in our history, knowing damn well it was people such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

Courtney: First of all, why even make a fictional character for a nonfictional event? Like, even if you’re making a fictionalized account of the events, like, we know names of many of the people who were involved. Why make someone up completely brand new? And of course, if you make someone up new, [laughing] it’s gonna be a white person! Are you kidding me?

Marshall: Like, pay a consultant. Pay someone who was there at the moment. Like, always pay someone if you are wanting to make a project and you want to put this project for the world to see, and make sure that it’s done historically correct. Like, it would be like if I made the Titanic, right, and I had Rose wear a pair of bell-bottoms and a slip dress with eyeliner and lip liner, and putting her in the 19-teens. It would be historically inaccurate, which again, that story was, alone, interesting as it is.

Courtney: Mhm! [laughs] Yeah. That’s a good point. [laughs]

Marshall: I don’t think I’ll ever watch… I mean, again, it’s a good movie. It was long. You literally need to take a day off to watch that movie.

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: It’s that long.

Courtney: On the two VHS tapes! [laughs]

Marshall: Yes. Like, 1997… If I wanted to live back to 97… I tried to watch that movie, but within an hour, I’m just ready to go to bed —

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: — or just do something else. Or, it’s just like… [sighs] Like, could you imagine being Asexual in the, like — I mean, we were Asexual in the ’90s, but could you imagine, like, being a adult Asexual in the ’90s? Like, that must have been a very interesting experience.

Courtney: Oh, I’m sure it was. I mean, and I have spoken with Aces who would have been in that camp, who have… From both sides of things, who either did know that they were Ace and used either that exact word or something comparable and similar to it, but didn’t really have the community. They didn’t really participate in things like Haven For The Human Amoeba, they didn’t really get on the AVEN train when it was still young, so they still felt just very detached. And I’ve spoken to people who were just, like, on those forums right from the beginning. And then of course, there’s the folks who just didn’t know that Asexuality was an option, so they found it much later in life.

Marshall: That’s another thing. I think a lot of people, when they have discussions about sexual orientation, a lot of people think that it’s inherently sexual and stuff. And I’m like, “Had I known about Asexuality when I was a kid, I would have had a more smoother childhood and teen life.” I had a great life at home, but my social life was very poor, in the sense of even though I was doing the typical teen stuff of, like, going to the movies, going to hang out with your friends, going bowling, but I was still thinking in my head, I had to do something. I had to try to fit into the social norm in a sense. And where I turned 22 going on 23, I just had enough. Like, I needed to say something. And finding that label was just… It was like winning the lottery.

Marshall: But I also didn’t expect me to fall into being one of, like, the largest activists in the community, especially at a time where we are now. Like, in 2016, I always thought we were going ahead, like, we were moving forward. But this is actually my first time as an activist facing such a major backlash to just us in general. Like, I’m pretty sure there’ll be… Like, I told my mom, I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last time. Someone asked me, when will I retire being an activist. I’m like, “Uh…” I’d say, I’ve taken many breaks, and I will take a break in the future, definitely. But I feel like, as long as there is work to be done… And my work, to me, is not — it’s nothing stressful. But if it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of kids and teenagers and early adults, I will continue to do that work until… hell, if I’m 90, I’ll still do it. Like, I don’t get tired of it at all.

Marshall: And I’m very proud of the coming generations, who are speaking out and who are doing the things that need to be done to make sure that we have a sustainable future for us. We live in a society where people just don’t understand and they want to erase us from public life. But, like, we will prevail at the end, and it’ll be because of our work and their work.

Courtney: Yeah. It is very interesting, because in so, so many ways, it feels like our political opposition is so much more organized than we are.

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: And that is a major, major frustration of mine. Because they get things done. And sometimes they get things done secretly, or they progress so far that we catch it, like, when it’s alarm-bell moment, this is about to happen. And so we’re very reactionary. Like, “Let’s protest this thing that’s about to happen or this thing that just happened.” And this is not everyone. I know that there are activists who are frequently working on this, just constantly always trying to improve our rights. So this is not in any way to discredit those people.

Courtney: But especially with, you know, Ace-specific issues. There are so many people in the community that don’t even know that there are people who are political opponents of ours who are trying to come for our rights. They’ll think, like, “Oh, well, you know, I’ll see people who are trying to take away trans rights.” It’s like, well, because there are trans organizations that are so much more organized than we are in the Ace community. So, there are huge trans Twitter accounts that are blasting out, you know, different bigoted legislation that’s on the table, trying to get people in those areas engaged, to get that education out there. There are grassroots trans activists in all major cities. Even if you don’t know who they are, they are there, I promise you.

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: But as far as Ace activism is concerned, I’m always surprised when people will say, you know, “Oh, I didn’t even know that people were specifically mentioning Asexual people in political documents, or that people were trying to say that Asexual people can’t marry. I didn’t know that at all until I listened to your podcast.” And it’s like, well, yeah, because we don’t really have a lot of Ace activists who are monitoring our political opposition to know what they’re trying to do next. Because, yeah, with the Respect for Marriage Act last year, we did a whole four-part series where we were like, “Hey, they said we shouldn’t double-down and protect same-sex marriage because it could lead to Asexual marriage.”

Marshall: Ugh.

Courtney: They said that! They sent that to Mitch McConnell. They know who we are, and they hate us, and they don’t think we have rights, and they want to take away the ones that we do.

Marshall: Yeah. And it’s like, again, it’s also, like, the policies where they’re trying to come up with where you can’t live with someone who you’re not married to, if that makes sense. Like, the ones out in the Midwest, I think.

Courtney: Oh, yeah. There are a couple of different places. I mean, there’s one city in particular right near us that sort of redefined what “family” means, and so that was something that we specifically spotlighted. But there are a few other places in this country that have weird legislation that is normally done at, like, City Council levels, which have usually less oversight than the bigger political branches in our government, so it slides under the radar so much more often.

Courtney: And there’s really kind of just a fundamental flaw in this country’s, like, approach to, like, architectural zoning. Because people will zone cities and say, “Well, these buildings are zoned for business, only business. And these can be zoned for hotels. And these can be zoned…” But the word “family” is used so often, it will… We’ll have homes that are zoned as, like, single-family homes, multi-family homes. And since that is the language, since “family” is in those zoning laws, it inevitably follows that the government has to legally define what a family is in order to adhere to those zoning laws. And it’s mostly old, white, straight people on City Councils in a lot of places that nobody is paying attention to. So if they say, “Well, family is only blood relation or marriage, that is it,” well, alright, there goes queerplatonic partners. There goes, you know, even a romantic couple that just maybe hasn’t decided to get married — they don’t want to, for whatever reason. And there goes, you know, roommates if you have too many of them. And it’s a real problem.

Marshall: It’s like, with the downtown — now with the post — not post-, because we’re still in it, the pandemic where we basically… They’re trying to restructure what downtowns are now and turning office buildings into apartments. And it’s happening a lot. And oftentimes, those apartments seem to be geared to… Like, they’re building very few studio apartments where it’s just one person. But I notice that, now, it’s like one to two bedrooms, and they’re huge apartments, like, not some you’d expect for one person. And also, they’re gearing entertainment and retailing towards more family entertainment, as opposed to just single, by yourself, type of situation.

Marshall: It’s one of the… It’s very odd to see how… I think people will eventually see how these politicians are coming at Asexual people. But right now, I think they’re still trying to grasp what Asexual people are — like, who we are. I feel like a lot of people see me as a big question mark when I’m in their space. It’s kind of like, “Oh, you’re Asexual. What do you do with your time? What type of job do you have?” I’m like, “What does that have to do with my sexuality?”

Marshall: And also, like, I actually had one person say, “You like Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ as a fellow Ace.” I’m like, there’s something that’s very odd, where people try to mold what people can or cannot do. Now it’s basically what you cannot listen to, what you can listen to. That’s why I made that post on Twitter basically saying how I was kind of irritated when someone literally — in a tribute post to Tina Turner — literally just said, “As a fellow Ace, I don’t know how to feel about the song.” And I’m like…

Courtney: But Tina Turner is a legend. [laughs]

Marshall: Yeah. If my taste in music was… There are some songs that may be defined by my Asexuality and may be why they’re on my playlist, but the majority of my playlists are allo songs. Like, they’re very allo-centered, and it doesn’t bother me or impact me in a very great manner. Like, again, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s WAP, all capital letters.

Courtney: Mmm, mhm. It’s a tremendously catchy song. [laughs]

Marshall: I can’t help it — it’s, like, one of the songs that is good to use that protest, especially when it’s in front of older white men, and that’s one of their triggers.

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: And we have for, like, for some odd reason. [laughs] But it’s, like, very… It’s just very odd where, when people find out you’re Asexual, they monitor and they also nitpick what you do not do and why you’re doing this if you’re Asexual or stuff like that. And I literally had someone ask me, “Why are you on Tinder if you’re Asexual?” I’m like, “There’s literally — I think there’s literally a Asexual option on Tinder.” Which does not work. Which, it does not work. I got a lot of odd things with that.

Courtney: Mmm.

Marshall: I don’t date. I was just on there for curiosity’s sake. But even that. It shows you how a lot of people who are like, “Is it really hatred against Asexual people?” when you’re perpetuating it by just just saying that. “Is there really a war against Asexual people?” I’m like, “There’s a war against us and everyone else in the queer community.”

Courtney: Yeah. And of course, I mean, Aces are so diverse in the way that we live our lives. So there are some people who will get married. There are some people who will have kids. So there’s no way to predict the outcome of a person’s life just by knowing their sexuality. But that’s true with all sexualities. Not all gay people get married. Not all straight people get married. But there are certain things that I would say are probably more common in our community, like wanting to be single or staying single.

Courtney: And sometimes — like, if you’re talking to the right person who’s open to learning, they might be like, “Oh, okay, I can see it’s perfectly valid to stay single, and that that’s totally fine.” But what I find is that people who are would-be allies don’t take that train of thought far enough to actually know what an Ace person would actually need for support and community, long-term. Because if someone wants to be single, if they prefer to be single, there are certain things that are still very difficult to access. Sometimes it is still difficult to rent as a single person in some places, because landlords often have, dare I say, too many rights [laughing] to turn away people for whatever reason they want. So if they would rather rent to a nice, respectable family instead of a single person, that is unfortunately sometimes within their legal right to do. And so that is an issue in itself.

Courtney: But even aside from that, when you were talking about apartments, that got me thinking about how so many, like, single-room apartments are seen as just, like, starter places to live. They are just sort of… I mean, I don’t necessarily want to say, like, bottom of the barrel, but they might be a little bare-bones, because a lot of those landlords don’t suspect that they’re going to have a lot of very long-term renters. So they might start slacking on, you know, updating amenities and appliances and things. Because it’s either, like, apartments like that for single bedrooms often, or, in some metro areas, you’ll get these, like, wildly expensive, like, single-room penthouses that are supposed to be, like, for single tech entrepreneur bachelors that are paying, like, $8,000 a month. And it’s like, there isn’t a lot of in-between. And there are some people who do want, you know, something that is perfectly suited for a single person that is going to be a long-term home, a long-term investment, that is going to be nice and sustainable.

Courtney: But past that, also just this country has a really bad habit of assuming that everyone’s retirement plan is “My children will help take care of me.”

[Marshall laughs]

Courtney: So what do we do about, you know, Ace and Aro elders who are not married, who do not have kids?

Marshall: Are we going to have it? Are we going to have a retirement plan? [laughs]

Courtney: [laughs] Exactly! I mean, gosh, like, retirement homes are so wildly expensive in this country that there are literally people who are like, “Well, it’s cheap enough to just constantly rent out a room on a cruise boat, so I’m just going to do that.” [laughs]

Marshall: Like, I want to be like… I think once I get to that age, I’m going to be the person that — even I’m going to be one of those — this might sound very bad and judgmental, but I’m going to be one of those Instagram influencers that travel the world little money. And I might say my occupation is, “I collect butterflies that make my money.”

[Marshall and Courtney laugh]

Marshall: But that’s how — like, when I watch House Hunters, I’m like, “How are you doing this with two kids? And y’all are just a teacher and a, let’s just say, stay-at-home-mom or a stay-at-home-dad, stuff like that.” And the odd thing is they don’t get viewed as weird, but me or y’all and anyone else in the Ace community, when we want to go about how we live, let’s just say with or without a partner, or if we marry a person, it’s always viewed as “Why? Like, what was the point of y’all being married?” It’s kind of like, that’s not the point. I’m like, it’s — again, as you can tell, I’ve been through a lot of [laughing] frustrating comments from people, especially the people who, just once you say you’re Asexual, it’s just, “Define this. Define that. Like, you need to answer my questions immediately.”

Marshall: But I think, also, like, in terms of developments of downtowns, I think what people need to prepare for is they’re not necessarily planning for single people. They’re planning more for family-oriented entertainment, restaurants. If you go downtown in my city, there used to be a lot of nightclubs, a lot of places where you can go at night, and they stay open until 2 A.M. You could go out with your friends, have fun. Now we have a food hall, we have a market, which is… Now you see families from the suburbs, now — like, they lived downtown decades ago in the ’70s when the mall opened, but now they’re starting to return. And now they’re the focus of the revitalization of the area.

Marshall: But even… it’s how I kind of view Pride, in a sense, where because pride is very corporatized, it’s very… it can be cold. Luckily, my local Pride is more — there’s more local hands involved. But you do have an insurance company being involved, sponsoring Pride. You have, let’s just say, Macy’s, a department store, who have ran many department stores out of business, stuff like that.

Courtney: A lot of banks, I’ve noticed, yeah.

Marshall: Like, pretty soon, it’s July. At 11:59, I always hold my breath until 12 A.M. July 1st, because I don’t know if you remember when Google had, like, the logo — like, their Google logo and Pride. And my mom was like, “Why are you pressing refresh?” Because me and her were watching TV. I said, “I’m waiting until Google just drops this until next year.”

[Courtney laughs]

Marshall: And I’m like, “And it’s midnight.” And it just has the regular Google — like, “Welcome to Google.” I’m like, “Great. See you next year.”

Courtney: Mhm. Well, and that’s kind of an interesting thing, too, because I don’t ever see… We’ll get the one-off little company, maybe, here and there, that will do a little sort of, like, “Hooray Aces” something, but we don’t get it on the scale that, you know, Gay Pride gets. And I’ve got a theory about that. I’ve got a theory that corporations look at gay couples and they think, “Dual income. No kids.”

Marshall: Yeah.

Courtney: “They’ve got money.”

Marshall: “Money.”

Courtney: “We want it. So let’s build brand loyalty and show them that we [laughing] agree with their lifestyle.” But with Aces, we’re a bit of a challenge to capitalism in a number of ways. Sex sells. If “sex sells” is something that you have learned as a marketer and you’re presented with, “Okay, now appeal to an Asexual demographic,” like, you’ll just hear static sounds in their head. Like, they won’t know what to do with us. How do you advertise to Asexuals, unless they take the really scummy route of, like, “Let me advertise for you a thing to cure your libido, because it’s a problem.” [laughs]

Marshall: But, yeah. If anyone watches this, like, let’s just say a corporate grocery store, if y’all are watching this, if y’all are looking for Asexual people, give us your bakery for every holiday that we have. Give us your bakery for Pride, and we will kind of be happy. But again, also be sure to, again, pay us. I hate when I see people who do, like, sponsorships for, let’s just say, a major company and they don’t get paid for it at all. Like, they only want your traffic, not necessarily want to invest into your well-being.

Marshall: And again, activism is not about… it’s not about money. It’s not about making, quote-unquote, a “living.” It’s just making sure that you’re okay while doing the work. Like, I used to work at a grocery store. Now I don’t. And I plan on looking for something else in the future while maintaining my activism. But now, mainly my focus is my work in activism and making sure the community is doing good, and stuff. But it would be so nice to have people not donate to these corporations and donate to the people who work to make sure that we have visibility and make sure that we bring resources to the community and donate to our organizations.

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s a big reason why we wanted to start our MarketplAce for Ace and Aro small business owners. Because even if it’s not activism specifically, it’s, like, everyone… It’s a pretty common thing, especially around Pride Month or other Pride events throughout the year, to be like, “Remember, this Pride, to pay your local queer people! Like, give us money! Support us, because these corporations aren’t doing it!” But sometimes you’ll get, like, threads where it’ll be like, “You know, drop your businesses, drop your Ko-fis, drop your Patreons, and let’s try to support each other”. And that’s great when that happens. But unfortunately, there’s only a certain amount of lifespan to a Tweet or a Facebook post, and eventually it’s going to stop, lose engagement, and fall out of visibility. And we just wanted, like, a website where it’s like, “If you want to pay an Ace and Aro person, here are hundreds of them!”

[Marshall laughs]

Courtney: “Go forth.”

Marshall: Yes. It’s very important. It’s why a lot of us also have, like, CashApp. A lot of people are like, “Why do you put your CashApp in your bios?” Because a cup of coffee would be nice. Like, something…

Courtney: Activism doesn’t pay! [laughs]

Marshall: No. Again, if you’re unemployed and you’re doing the work, it’s a lot of work. And again, it’s worth it. I would never trade my experiences for being an activist for anything, and I would actually rather do this than fall into the corporate world, but — because of how our society works. Maybe that will change in our time. Maybe that’s the next wave of stuff that’s happening. Already, people are working from home now, which is nice. But thanks to Martha Stewart, she said that people will come back to the office, so I’m like…

Courtney: Eugh.

Marshall: Please just continue making cakes. That’s it.

Courtney: [laughs] “I liked you so much better when you were making cakes.” [laughs]

Marshall: Like, hang out with Snoop Dogg, hang out with Snoop Dogg. Just leave us alone. Leave us alone.

[Courtney and Marshall laugh]

Marshall: Rapport. [laughs] Like, rapport. Leave the rest of us alone.

Courtney: Yeah, because there are, like… Activism hardly ever is an actual position where you can make money from. And even the very, very few people who are lucky enough to get a job in, like, a nonprofit, nonprofits still don’t pay employees well, because it’s a nonprofit, so you’re still not going to be making good money even if you’re doing that. And there’s also the negative downside that now that you are formally working for a nonprofit, you might be confined by the rules of that nonprofit and the rules of people who are helping to fund that nonprofit. So you might be trading a meager salary for a lot of creative freedom and a lot of freedom of speech and visibility that you could have independently. So it’s always a toss-up, and different answers are going to be different for different people. But let me tell you, your average — like, your favorite Ace account on Twitter, your favorite Ace content creator, the people writing Ace articles, like, if we’re getting paid for any of that, it’s not a full-time salary.

Marshall: Like, it’s definitely… it’s fun and worth it. But like I said, people, if you want to support just more people, go to support your podcast. Tip me a cup of coffee. It’s that simple. And also, donate into Asexual Outreach, AVEN, et cetera.

Courtney: Absolutely. And I am going to put a link to those things in the description for all of our folks.

Marshall: Awesome.

Courtney: But before we head out for the day, tell us: where are all the places that our listeners can find you, if they aren’t already following you?

Marshall: You can find me at Gentle Giant Ace on Twitter. You can find me at GentleGiantAce93 on TikTok. You can find me at Marshall John Blount, B-L-O-U-N-T, on YouTube.

Courtney: Excellent. Well, Marshall —

Marshall: Also, Asexual Outreach. Sorry. Asexual Outreach.

Courtney: Well, Marshall, it was so, so good talking to you. It is always a pleasure. Thank you for the work you do. Thank you for talking to us. And let’s see, what… [laughs] I feel like the biggest revelation from this episode was that racism in the Ace community is like disco.

Marshall: Yeah. Like, it’s in, and then next minute, it’s out, then it’s in again, and it’ll go out again.

Courtney: So remember, listeners, disco never goes out of style.

Marshall: Nope.

Courtney: Keep listening to disco.

Marshall: Yep.

Courtney: Hang a disco ball in your house right next to your Ace flag.

Marshall: Period. [laughs] Thanks for having me on.

Courtney: It is a pleasure. I’m sure we will talk to you again in the future, so.

Marshall: Yes.

Courtney: And thank you, listeners for tuning in. We will see you guys all next time.

Marshall: Peace.

Courtney: Bye!