Coming out of invisibility.

In September 2014, novelist and activist Julie Sondra Decker released a personal yet rigorous work of non-fiction. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality made waves as one of the first majorly distributed and easily accessible books exploring asexuality, one of the world’s least understood, and only recently defined, sexual identities.

But what’s more important is the fact that the book debuted on the heels of this year’s second International Asexuality Conferenceheld in Toronto and the asexual community’s largest ever presence in Pride parades worldwide. After years of rejection by, isolation from, and being pathologized by straight and queer communities alike, it seems as if asexuality is now approaching a breakthrough in acceptance and visibility, thanks in large part to the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of work by activists to form a cohesive community.

Despite the progress made, the concept of asexuality is new enough that relatively few have a truly firm grasp on what the term actually means. In brief, asexuality refers to those who identify their sexual orientation by a lack of sexual attraction—not to be confused with celibacy, which is a choice, but rather a natural lack of interest. Beyond that, the identity gets far more complex. Many actually consider picking apart and analyzing the layers of their sexuality, the differences between arousal, sex drive, and attraction, to be part of asexual life.


You may encounter asexuals who have no interest in sexual intercourse, but do enjoy bonding emotionally and showing physical affection to a partner.

You may meet others who have no interest in relationships of any kind. You may meet some who remain virgins and some who will have sex for a partner’s sake, others who can feel limited attraction after getting to know someone and others who are asexual but only bond with members of the same gender. There are dozens of subcategories by which one can divide and niche one’s asexuality before even approaching the notion of fluid and ever-changing sexual identities and preferences.

Asexuality didn’t emerge as a clear category or identity until at least 1948, when the seminal Kinsey Report identified a group, at least 1.5 percent of the population, which didn’t fit within its scale of sexual attraction.

Early surveys of this population found that between 64 and 71 percent were women and that 17 to 18 percent were completely uninterested in relationships. But it wasn’t until 2002, when a study at Brock University in Canada revealed that 15 percent of healthy rams—with no physical or hormonal defects—shared this lack of interest in sexual bonding, that the mass media started to seriously consider a lack of sexual interest as a legitimate state of sexual existence rather than an aberration or the side effect of some trauma. In 2006 the Brock University researchers, who had branched into studying humans as well, went on to place asexuality on equal footing with the commonly accepted categorizations of hetero-, homo-, and bisexuality in human experience.

But as soon as people started to publicly equate asexuality with other queer identities, like homosexuality or transgender, there was backlash from LGBTQIgroups. 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. They also point out that they face the constant discrimination of people denying their identity and trying to “fix” them by bringing them into a world of sexual engagement, not to mention the fact that, without sex, their relationships are often denied legal legitimacy, they face the risk of spousal rape, and they have no real protection under federal non-discrimination legislation.

As for the claim that they hide from sexual identity, activists note that their entire identity is built around constantly questioning their sexual feelings, with one asexual writer excerpting a stereotypical asexual conversation: “Ah, yes, you appear to be a demiromantic panromantic demisensual repulsed asexual, but have you thought about your aesthetic attractions and libido yet? Here, let me show you 40 different models…” Given this complexity, asexuals point out, many asexuals may actually intersect in their non-sexual attractions with LGB, trans, and non-binary identities and attractions. Although many still contest the legitimacy of the identity, arguments like this have earned asexuals inclusion in major LGBTQI resources like the Trevor Project’s suicide prevention hotline.

As for where all these arguments and asexual activists are coming from, we largely have one lonely teen to thank: David Jay, now a 32-year-old asexual activist who tried to Google non-sexual identities back at the start of the millennium and began to feel isolated when the search only yielded studies of amoebas.

So, in 2001, he launched the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network as a resource for those who felt similarly sequestered, including those who are simply questioning or curious about their identities. Now with 80,000 active members (including Julie Sondra Decker who first explored her identity through AVEN), it’s the largest asexual community in the world with resources detailing how to assess one’s identity, handle relationships, and come out to friends and family.

In the years since AVEN was founded, countless other resources and meeting places have sprung up for asexuals: from Tumblr communities to storytelling projects to a community site called Acebook replete with asexual symbols and jokes. As of 2009, asexuals started showing a visible and united presence at Pride parades, creating their own flag in 2010 and launching the International Asexuality Conference and Asexuality Awareness days and weeks by 2012. And thanks to a slew of articles following the release of the documentary (A)sexual in 2011, the identity is starting to reach mass consciousness.

Perhaps most importantly, though, even if the identity is not totally accepted even in sexual rights communities, it is now a cohesive community itself. It has developed its own terminology, like Ace for asexuals, and fictional icons like Dr. Who or Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. And it’s even seen members of the community highlighted explicitly in soap operas and other elements of mass media. There’s still a ways to go yet before the asexual community will have addressed much of the stigma against it and achieved true mainstream recognition, though, but it’s no longer quite as brutally lonely to be an asexual in 2014, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating.

This article originally appeared on GOOD.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.