Models of Pride: How Can We Teach Asexuality to Children?
This article originally appeared here.
For the weekend of Asexual Awareness Week, I volunteered at an event called Models of Pride in Los Angeles. Students and kids of all ages, their parents and community members came to the conference to learn more about the LGBTQ* community. Ace Los Angeles had a table, where I greeted passersby and handed out brochures. With everything going well, I was afforded the time to watch how attendees reacted to the term “asexual” as presented at our booth. Specifically, I watched how children elementary school-age or younger regarded the identity.
Of the attendees, about a fifth were pre-adolescents or children. I remember the first group of young kids walking by in a cluster with a guardian hovering over their shoulders.
“Do you have any questions?” I asked.
They stared at our cardboard display for a second before smiling shyly and shaking their heads. I had forgotten kids don’t like being put on the spot. But as I saw this reaction repeated among most children for the time I was there, I started to wonder how we could pique the curiosity of young children enough to inspire them to ask questions.
Learning more every day about my own ace identity, I tend to assume that most strangers don’t know the word “asexuality,” or have only a partial definition of the term. Fortunately, the numbers of people who’ve at least heard of asexuality are growing. As these numbers rise, let’s not institute — even informally — a minimum age to learn about asexuality.
I recall when I first became aware of being acutely “different” from my peers in regards to my sexual orientation. The predominant labels I understood at the age of nine, growing up in my sheltered community, didn’t satisfy how I thought of myself. In the small town where I grew up, even farther south than America’s “deep south,” I knew of two identities: “gay,” and “everyone else.” I wouldn’t learn the term “asexual” for another thirteen years.
Reflecting on how many of those years were spent thinking I was weird, odd, and generally inferior to mainstream society because I didn’t share the same fascination with other people (and especially other people of different genders), I know there was room in my childhood for a guiding light.
Creating an environment for children to learn can obviously cultivate greater awareness in generations to come, but also allow young ace kids to identify themselves in environments that won’t cast them as broken or wrong. Maybe exposure to the term “asexuality” in events such as Models of Pride can suffice, but I don’t think we should wait until the same children are older to find out that exposure alone isn’t enough.
How do we best teach young children about asexuality? First, how do we reach kids — do we approach schools, or create spaces within greater communities geared toward teaching children?