Asexual activists explain why labels are so important and powerful

Asexual awareness activists Yasmin Benoit (left) and Emi Salida (right). (Instagram/ theyasminbenoit and Instagram/ embly99)

Asexuality awareness advocates Emi Salida and Yasmin Benoit have explained why the label “asexual” can be a vital part of self-discovery.

Speaking during a PinkNews Instagram Live for Asexual Awareness Week, YouTuber Salida, who is asexual, demiromantic and biromantic, and model and activist Benoit, who is asexual and aromantic, answered questions on asexual identity and experience.

Responding to a commenter who asked why the asexual label was necessary when they could “just be” without naming it, Benoit said: “I am very happy ‘just being’, and I managed to ‘just be’ without anyone realising I was asexual for the most part until 2019… it wasn’t something I was screaming about.

“I managed to get through most of my life, even after learning the term, either by dodging the conversation, or trying to make up other explanations because people didn’t now what ‘asexual’ meant anyway.”

But, she added: “Having a term, when people actually accepted it, made it a lot easier because it saved me a TED Talk and allowed them to Google it.

“I think, as with most things in life, it’s helpful to have words to describe things, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to speak.”

Salida spoke to her own journey with discovering her asexuality: “Having the word ‘asexual’ made me feel so much less isolated.

“When I was coming out, I was 16, I was going into college, where everyone’s going from zero to 100 in learning about themselves and their sexuality.

“While in real life, I was surrounded by people who weren’t asexual, online I knew there was this whole community of people who also used that word.

“It was very validating, and it was something that made me feel not so broken.”

Both Benoit and Salida were clear, however, that no one needs a label, and if they want one, it doesn’t have to remain static.

“It’s OK to not feel like you want to use that label,” Benoit said.

Salida added: “It’s OK to change your labels if you are using labels to work out your identity. It’s OK to change those labels while you’re learning about yourself.”

Asexual folk don’t need to have sex to know that they are asexual

Asked how young people can know if they are asexual without “trying” sex, Emi Salida was clear: “I don’t think you need to have any experience of any sort to know if you are a certain sexuality or not.

“Some people prefer to try things before they put a label on themselves, and that’s completely fine… but it’s not necessary.”

She added: “People can know that they’re gay or straight from any age, why should it be different for us?”

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