Equality Act 2010

What is asexuality, anyway?

By |December 1st, 2016|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

This article that Lori Brotto retweeted presents one of the big problems with asexuality right now. It highlights two things: one, that asexuality is difficult to define, because it’s defined by the absence of something; two, that the asexual community also has problems with agreeing upon this definition.

This battle does legitimise the concerns the Office for National Statistics raised on asking a question about sexual orientation. They said that, “Sexuality is multi-faceted and difficult to define… different conceptions of what constitutes sexual orientation — including attraction, identity, lifestyle, partnership and community — may co-exist within a single study”. That is to say that even for a commonly used term for a sexual orientation (for example, “gay”), how it is interpreted differs between people. To give an example of how subjective this is, consider this example: is a man that identifies as heterosexual, but who has had sporadic sexual encounters with men, right to identify as heterosexual?

There does not appear to be an objective truth by which we can define others as asexual or not; but sexuality has always been a journey of self-identification and self-determination, anyway. While the ONS is concerned by how the public interprets those options, it is set to include a question on sexual orientation in Census 2021 for the first time.

The question remains: is a definition important for a sexual orientation to be a sexual orientation? Well, from a legal perspective, I’m not so sure. The Equality Act 2010 includes definitions of sexual orientations as part of the sexual orientation protected characteristic. However, these definitions are not related to specific terms. The Equality Act does not have any mention of “homosexual”, “gay”, “heterosexual”, “bi”, “lesbian” and so on. Rather it lists sexual orientations in terms of orientations towards persons same and/or opposite sexes. There is a gap here for “no persons”. There is also a gap for “persons of neither sex”, but that is a whole other article…

So there is something troubling with labouring over what asexuality is: whether it describes the compass of drive, or the degree of drive, or with someone’s perception of their self, people will use the label if they feel that it fits. If we have to decide whether asexuality is a sexual orientation or not, and what behaviours merit a person to identify as asexual, then it justifies the need to do the same for other sexual orientations. So if you’re a bi-curious straight person, you may have to prepare for having a label applied to you.

Introducing maaple

I am proud to introduce you to maaple: it is an organisation through which we hope to make positive change in the UK.

It stands for the Movement for Asexuality Awareness, Protection, Learning and Equality. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll have seen that asexuals are not protected by equality legislation in this country, and that it can be difficult to be openly asexual. We hope that maaple will become a force for positive change that benefits everyone: not just asexuals.

We have three aims.

  1. To improve the Equality Act 2010 to protect more people: namely those that are excluded by the legislation currently. This includes asexuals, but others too.
  2. To improve school sex, health and relationship education to give children the information they need to make mature, informed and safe choices. This includes teaching children about the (a)sexual spectrum and gender identity.
  3. To assist organisations and institutions to offer equal opportunities to individuals that identify as being on the asexual spectrum and so that they feel included and welcomed.

There is more information on our website, maaple.org.uk. We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, with other media to follow. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Well, you asked for it

By |April 25th, 2015|Asexuality updates|0 Comments

As an aside, Newcastle United lost (again) 3-2 today and I have a cold. Today was a bad idea for the Labour Party to send the following email.

Screenshot 2015-04-25 18.05.46

The demand for money from the Labour Party has been persistent: “more than a few” is an understatement. I’ve had 32 emails from the Labour Party in the past month that have asked for donations. This one really takes the biscuit. I have no obligation to donate, so to ask for a reason why I haven’t is somewhat intimidating. Nonetheless, here is my reason.

The political parties have been persuading us that the real issues in this election are the NHS and immigration. We should also be thinking about the economic recovery. I don’t care about those so much. Leave them alone and we’re doing fine.

There is one issue for me. If you read my blog, you’d know that I would like the Equality Act 2010 changed. It creates inequality. It’s otherwise a very positive piece of legislation but it doesn’t protect everyone that it should — that is my opinion at least.

Of course, I have told the Labour Party about this already and they delivered an astonishingly poor response.

That’s not to mention the email (and the cause for all the donation spam, presumably) and the letter that I had sent to the Labour Party. I still have not received a response from them.

So, I expect that the Labour Party have no plans to help people like me. Therefore, I will not be donating to their campaign, nor will I be voting for them in this General Election. They’ve had their chances: and I’ve given them so many. A response to my question was all I wanted, and they couldn’t offer me that.

Creating support for change

By |February 7th, 2015|Asexuality updates|0 Comments

Yesterday I visited Loughborough to attend an LGBT staff group meeting. I’d been in touch because I was a little frustrated that they said they welcomed members that were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as identified in the Equality Act 2010. To their credit, they immediately changed their group name to the LGBT+ staff group.

It was particularly reassuring how seriously this group is being taken, with the Vice Chancellor attending the meeting and taking an interest in the issues that had been discussed. For my part, I introduced myself and stated why it was important for me to join.

I said that asexuality is known as the “invisible orientation”. We don’t generally make a fuss and keep ourselves to ourselves. While that works most of the time, it also means that we’re overlooked for things like the Equality Act and leave ourselves open to abuse and ignorance in general. If we’re to bring about change, we have to engage with those that can help us and find common ground.

I’m quite pleased I joined. They were a friendly and welcoming group and there is an intent to embrace more members and to raise awareness. We can help each other out in that regard.

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.