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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

Keep Reading Show less

It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

Keep Reading Show less