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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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

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"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

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via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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