A recently published report, titled ‘Ace in the UK,’ sheds light on the pervasive discrimination and challenges faced by asexual individuals in the United Kingdom. Asexuality, an umbrella term for individuals who experience little or no sexual attraction, has long been misunderstood and marginalized. The joint collaboration between Stonewall and asexual activist and researcher Yasmin Benoit reveals the alarming extent of discrimination asexual people endure in various aspects of their lives.
Prevalent Discrimination Across Multiple Fronts
The report draws data from various sources, including the 2021 England and Wales Census, the 2018 National LGBT Survey, Stonewall’s 2022 Rainbow Britain study, and interviews with asexual individuals in the UK. It uncovers the substantial prejudice and obstacles asexual individuals face due to widespread misunderstanding about their identity. These challenges encompass probing questions, isolation, sexual harassment, conversion therapy, delayed healthcare, and having their identity treated as an illness.
One significant finding is that asexual individuals are less likely than other groups to be open about their identity with friends and family. Only 5.7% are open with all family members they do not live with about their identity, compared to 21.5% of all respondents. Additionally, just 26.3% of asexual people are open about their sexuality with friends, lower than the 33.1% figure for all respondents.
Notably, asexual respondents are the most likely group (83.8%) to fear a negative reaction from others when discussing their sexuality, compared to all respondents (69.6%). One person quoted in the report expressed disappointment with their friend’s response, saying, “Oh, you just haven’t met the right person yet” or “It’s your medication that’s causing it.”
Challenges in Work and Healthcare Settings
In work settings, nearly half of asexual individuals (49%) are not out to their colleagues, a significantly higher figure than the rate for all LGBTQ+ respondents (18%). Among those who are out, only 17.6% report having a universally positive experience of being out. Asexual individuals attribute this to workplaces having highly sexualized cultures, disbelief, and inappropriate curiosity from colleagues, as well as sexual harassment following disclosure.
In healthcare settings, asexual individuals are 50% more likely to have never disclosed their asexuality to healthcare staff, with fear of a negative reaction cited by a quarter (24.3%). Moreover, 18.1% of asexual respondents reported that sharing their ace identity negatively impacted their care, particularly in reproductive health situations and having their asexuality erroneously assessed as a mental health condition.
A Call for Recognition and Acceptance
Commenting on the report, Yasmin Benoit, an asexual activist and researcher, emphasized the need for legal recognition, protection, acceptance, and amplification of asexual voices. Stonewall’s Director of Communications and External Affairs, Robbie de Santos, urged political leaders to adopt recommendations to better support asexual individuals and ensure they can thrive without discrimination and prejudice.
The ‘Ace in the UK’ report serves as a significant step in understanding asexuality, highlighting asexual discrimination, and initiating action to address these issues within society.