discrimination

A response from the Green Party

It’s been a while since I posted an asexuality update. I’ve been largely involved with maaple (I’m sure I’ll make another post about that at some point…). But I’ve had a belated but nonetheless encouraging letter from the Green Party. I asked them about their policy on asexuality equality and, specifically, about the Equality Act 2010. Here is their response.

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for writing to the Green Party. Your letter has been directed to me as it deals with policy. Please also accept my apologies for the delay in not being able to respond before the election — we are a small team in a busy office, and receive a large volume of enquiries.

The Green Party recognises that asexuality and aromanticism are part of the diverse range of human experience and should be recognised. The Green party rejects any stigmatising of these characteristics as bad for individuals, or bad for society.

We understand that these characteristics are thoroughly misunderstood by society. Therefore we would aim to include details of them in general education so that asexual and aromantic people can flourish in society. The Green Party is committed to fully inclusive sex and relationships education for all children.

These pledges are made in our 2015 LGBTIQ manifesto which you can read in full at https://www.greenparty.org.uk/resources/LGBTIQ_Manifesto_v4%20FINAL.pdf.

Currently our policy on asexual rights is quite broad, and we do not have a specific policy on the inclusion of asexuals in the Equality Act. However, I believe that our general policy on sexual orientation (which includes discrimination and legal equality) may be up for review later this year, with a view to including asexuals. Green Party policy is made democratically by our members who vote on proposals at conferences twice a year, and I believe a motion is being prepared for the next conference in September.

The Green Party has a proud history of standing up for LGBTIQ rights, and I doubt there would be opposition to the inclusion of asexuals in anti-discrimination measures and laws. Should you be interested in joining the party, I would encourage you to take part in our policy making process.

For more information on our other policies, please see our manifesto which can be found here: https://www.greenparty.org.uk/we-stand-for/2015-manifesto.html.

Once again, thank you for your letter and please do not hesitate to contact us in the future.

Yours sincerely,
Matt Burton (Policy Volunteer)

This sounds very promising indeed!

Coming out of invisibility

But as soon as people started to publicly equate asexuality with other queer identities, like homosexuality or transgender, there was backlash from LGBTQI groups. Some believed that asexuality as an identity and asexuals as individuals were trying to hop onto the LGBTQI train without facing the same levels of visible discrimination; some accused them of being closeted queer folk unwilling to disclose their true sexual identity and thus hiding behind a false label.

Asexual activists refute this by noting that they are still classified as a pathological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and described as individuals with low self esteem, social anxiety, and depression in studies on their identity.

Coming Out of Invisibility, Mark Hay, Good Magazine

This post has been making waves in the ace community. The links to related content strongly support the messages that the author wishes to convey: asexuality is, indeed, a thing and there are a lot of issues that are yet to be addressed. In particular, discrimination and persecution does exist.

Finding a home within MOGII groups

My feeder alerted me to an article from Inside Higher Ed about student groups that are embracing the inclusion of the asexual spectrum within their MOGII groups, often called LGBT groups or some derivative of that acronym.

While the article itself is a positive piece about including Ace people in such groups, the comments beneath the article display a common problem that asexuals face. There are some that are already within these groups (and outside) that resent the acknowledgement of additional sexual identities within the MOGII umbrella. The sentiment is one of dilution and diversion: that adding more letters (and thus more people) to the LGBT group (presumably) makes the group less of a minority.

Sadly, this sentiment permeates elsewhere, with the idea that acknowledging asexuality would open the floodgates. Unfortunately, it would appear that the politicians are equally hostile to the idea of acknowledging asexuality, lest they are approached by countless other MOGII groups. The status quo of ignorance and ambivalence would appear to be far more preferable.

A letter to The Telegraph

I was alerted to an article published to The Telegraph’s website via an email update that searches for articles about asexuality. This one was offensive. I’m not going to link it, because I do not wish to publicise it any more than necessary.

It suggests that Hitler was asexual, and this is one of the reasons that we have failed to understand him. It also says, directly, that asexuality is not normal. Under Clause 12 of the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice:

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

My complaint is slightly oblique to this section of the Code of Practice. Nonetheless, this is a copy of the complaint form I sent to The Telegraph to complain about it.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to complain about the article “Martin Amis: how Hitler had sex”, written by Anita Singh. The narrative offered by Singh and the comments made by Amis and reported in this article, in my view, contravene Clause 12 of the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice.

The specific nature of my complaint is as follows.

1. Singh states that “the author” — presumably referring to Amis — believes that Adolf Hitler is asexual. Singh quotes Amis: “No-one understands Hitler. No-one understands what he was up to. And I don’t want to be reductive here or simplistic or frivolous, but I’m convinced that one of the reasons why we don’t recognise Hitler is that he’s sexually a void… Sexuality is one of the ways we recognise each other: knowing whether someone is married or gay or whatever it might be.”

This implies that being asexual is a barrier to being accepted or understood by wider society. It is my view that this is not only ignorant on the part of Amis, but it also serves to propagate negative stereotypes of asexual people as being distant, impossible to engage with, and being abhorrent in nature.

2. The article reports Amis made the following remarks: “In Hitler studies there are three schools of thought about his sexuality. One is normality… asexuality is the other one, the third one is perversion.”

This unequivocally marks asexuality as being outside the confines of “normality” and clearly propagates the discrimination of asexuals and asexuality.

I hope you will consider my complaint for this and future publications and will offer an apology and clarification of the paper’s stance towards asexuality and asexual persons.

I would be willing to assist the Telegraph Media Group on this matter if desired.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Broughton.

A reply from the Government Equalities Office

Today I received a reply to my letter to the Government Equalities Office. And here it is:

Dear Mr Broughton,

Thank you for your letter of 23 September 2014 regarding the legal recognition of asexuality.

I am sorry to hear that you have experienced prejudice because of your asexuality. However, the Government believes that an amendment of discrimination law based on attitudes to asexuality would not be appropriate.

Discrimination law is based on protection for people against discrimination because of particular characteristics (described as “protected characteristics”). These are, in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These characteristics also reflect EU legislation. As you recognise, the sexual orientation characteristic is defined as a person’s sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex, which explicitly does not cover asexuality.

A strong evidence base has built up over time that people with these protected characteristics have faced serious discrimination affecting their employment prospects and access to goods and services, like housing, health services and education, leading to disadvantage for themselves and their dependants. As there is not the same level of robust evidence for discrimination on the basis of asexuality, the Government is not looking to bring forward this change in discrimination law.

That said, there are situations in which an asexual person is protected by the Equality Act — for example, the Act bans discrimination based on the perception that someone does have a protected characteristic, or because they are associated with someone who has that characteristic.

If you would like advice on your experience of discrimination, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Services (EASS). The EASS provide [sic] bespoke advice and in-depth support to individuals with discrimination problems and can be contacted on the following number: 0800 444 205 (or textphone 0800 444 206). Their website is at: https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely,
Lucy Kennedy,
Policy Assistant, LGB&T Equality

Clearly this isn’t good news. The only hope of getting protection by law and from Government is to be discriminated against and reporting it. The paragraph about the protection we do have is of little comfort: we are only protected if people assume that we have a sexual orientation towards either sex and then discriminate against us.

Unfortunately, discrimination against asexuals can, does, and will happen. It is legal to discriminate against asexuals. And the Government are unwilling to do anything about because they do not believe it is necessary. In fact, the Equality Act is an example of discrimination against asexuals.

The political parties appear to have no appetite to outlaw such discrimination either.

So what’s next? Well, there’s the long game. Be discriminated against. Be accused of frigidity. Be sent to counsellors and therapists. Be sent to doctors for “corrective treatment”. Be sent to others for “corrective treatment”… Be hassled to get married and have children. Be told you’re not normal, that you’re a freak, that you’re not human. Then report these incidents (they are not crimes, though, remember). Then hope enough people are brave and persevering enough to report them. Then hope Government notices these incidents and debate a change.

This is not good enough.

The alternative is to campaign. Win hearts and minds. Share understanding, breed knowledge. Get people to contact their local MPs. Get people to sign a petition. Make Government notice. Make Government legally recognise asexuality and protect asexuals.

Addendum
This is the letter I sent to the GEO to which they replied.