Asexuality & Addressing Asexual Stigma through Art

Asexuality is hardly, if ever, highlighted on mainstream media. The media imposes images of sex, and sexual intimacy, through a typically straight and monogamous lens. Asexuality, and folks that lie within the asexual (aka "ace") spectrum, typically experience no sexual attraction to others. Oftentimes the asexual community faces stigmatization by members encompassing the rest of the larger LGBTQ2I+ community. This past spring, my friends and I co-edited “Narratives of Resistance Magazine (NoRM),” where we featured queer and trans identified artists; asexual artist Misabel Belcher was one of them.

Belcher’s piece “Read 3:16” is a comic-inspired art that reflects their identity navigating the world as an asexual person, in a sexual world. Through Misabel’s work, she explores the issues asexual people experience through her art piece, depicting two Black folks texting one another.

  Comic by Misabel Belcher

Comic by Misabel Belcher

Eve Moreno-Luz (EM):

Tell us about your piece, why did you create a piece about Asexuality? What was your inspiration?

  Misabel Belcher poses for a portrait that will be published in the Narratives of Resistance Magazine, in MacArthur Park, CA March, 4, 2018.

Misabel Belcher poses for a portrait that will be published in the Narratives of Resistance Magazine, in MacArthur Park, CA March, 4, 2018.

Misabel Belcher (MB):

When I first drafted the piece, I was originally going to have this same exchange but on written letters between the two girls, partly because I have “romantic” tastes. But I was persuaded to modernize it, so I switched to a text conversation, which I must admit was a good move; I did not want to be wordy. Also, I normally work in traditional media like pen and pastels, but I opted for a completely digital illustration so It would print well. Never done that before, so I was learning as I made this! I was inspired by the struggles of fellow Aces who are in relationships with non-Aces, including other queer people. It saddens me that there are other queer people that dismiss our existence, yet I am not surprised. The queer community is not so different from the rest, most of us just aren’t straight. I’d like to think of this as a chance to force people to confront the differences between sex and romance. They don't always coexist.

 

EM:

When was the first time you learned of Asexuality? What were your thoughts?

MB:

Tumblr! Yes, Tumblr has a…”unique” reputation, but follow the right people and do further research and you’ll be surprised at all the great resources and facts to be found there, not just for marginalized groups but anything really! When I first learned there was a word for my sexuality my mind was blown. It took a while, because there are so many nuanced sexualities and romantic orientations named I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

 

EM:

When did you realize you were Asexual?

MB:

When I got to that age where sex and sexuality really kicked in, I never looked at someone and imagined what would it be like if we “did It.” I’ve had crushes, but for me, it was never about being more than a platonic girlfriend. Even now, when I look at someone regardless of gender, I imagine either being their very good friend, holding their hands, even hugging them in ways that appears romantic, but always platonic. Or heck, even what their life is like versus my own, but never, ever sex. I am kind of a prude, I don’t like to engage in sexual imagery. I don’t even want to have sex anyway, but that is different from being celibate or abstinent: I have no urges to suppress my desires from any entity. Not wanting to have sex doesn’t make me a “better” or a more “real” Ace.

 

EM:

Do you plan to make more work around Asexual Visibility?

  Misabel Belcher (left) and Co-Editor of the Narratives of Resistance Magazine (NoRM) Alfredo Alvarado (right) are posted outside of Leiminspace Gallery during the NoRM release show, in Chinatown April 20, 2018. Photo by: Eve Moreno-Luz

Misabel Belcher (left) and Co-Editor of the Narratives of Resistance Magazine (NoRM) Alfredo Alvarado (right) are posted outside of Leiminspace Gallery during the NoRM release show, in Chinatown April 20, 2018. Photo by: Eve Moreno-Luz

MB:

I do! Like a typical artist, I’ve got ideas for days, I just don’t know which one I want to do first! (lol) Another comic is definitely one of them, but this time it will be full length, and much more fun to read, but also academic and personal.

 

EM:

Do you have a message to share with the Asexual community? Do you have something to say to the rest of the LGBTQI+ community about your identity? Or to the world?

MB:

Aces are, in fact, capable of reproducing by removing a limb or two and letting it grow into its own person. We are just waiting for the right time to chop ourselves up and grow our dark legions to overtake you all. So if you don’t want to live in a dystopian wasteland chiseling marble idols of your future Asexual Overlords with sporks you better be nice to us now……………….

Just kidding, just stop telling us, “We’ll find the right person.” We want to be loved and understood, and not be pressured, or convinced to be one’s sexual partner.

 

You can find more of Misabel’s work on Instagram, @ugly.misabel, and the Narratives of Resistance Magazine at @norzinela.

 

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Image descriptions:

A text-message conversation is illustrated between two Black queer individuals, both with purple hair. One is wearing a red shirt open over a crop top, baggy jeans, timbs, and a knit hat. The other has long hair, is wearing a blue dress over a white shirt with red shos, and is holding a phone with a bunny-shaped case.

“I’ve stared adversity in the face, sometimes with my back against he wall wondering if my sexuality will finally end me. So when I met you, I thought I found the one who would hold my hand and fight the good fight against anti-queer groups who set to harm us. I thought you were just like me. Did you ever love me at all?”

“I did. I held your hand because I loved you. But you wouldn’t hold mine. Why?”

“B/c You are an imposter. Not queer. Being asexual is not a thing. Just admit that you’re a celibate straight girl. I’m tired of being lied to…”

“IMPOSTOR?! I’m not queer? I think you mean that I’m too queer for you? You want me to be your Ally, but you won’t be an Ally to my people.”

“Being asexual is not a thing.”

“ASEXUALITY IS A THING. WE STRUGGLE TOO. Where were you when hetero men would hustle me into one-night stand thinking they could ‘fix’ me? Where were you when they called me Autistic? FRIGID?? BROKEN?? Shame on you for allowing your insecurity in not being sexually attractive to me to ruin our relationship. Shame on you for confusing love with sex so much. The wounds I gained defending you when haters try to slap you upside the head with the Bible.”

In this comic by Misabel Belcher, both people sit on opposite sides of a pink bench with gold feet. Between them, a broken heart is carved into wood. The two other images are photos of the artist, a fat Black woman who dresses and holds herself with confidence. The second photo shows Misabel sitting next to Alfredo Alvarado, a Latinx person with short hair, a mustache, and a red flower behind one ear.


About Eve Moreno-Luz:

Eve is a trans and queer multimedia artist of color living in South Central Los Angeles, raised by parents that migrated from Mexico City and Santa Ana, El Salvador. Although their work ranges from writing, video and photography, their passion is taking portraits of trans and queer POC, and they find affirmation in self-portraiture work. Follow Eve on TumblrInstagram, and their facebook page.