Yasmin Benoit is on her way to New York to break boundaries all over again
NYC Pride, slated for June 25, is once again set to welcome an array of esteemed Grand Marshals this year. Billy Porter, AC Dumlao, Hope Giselle, and Randolfe “Randy” Wicker are amongst the luminaries leading this year’s event. However, a spotlight shines on Yasmin Benoit, as she stands as the first-ever asexual Grand Marshal. Her appointment is a powerful affirmation of asexual inclusion. We talked to Benoit about her selection, and what it means for asexual folks celebrating Pride this year. But first, if you don’t know who Yasmin is, allow us to introduce you.
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Meet Yasmin Benoit
Yasmin Benoit, a renowned British model, writer, speaker, and researcher, has risen as a leading asexual activist. If that wasn’t enough, Benoit has also helped to increase the representation of Black women in the modeling industry, partnering with renowned brands like Mercedes and Ann Summers. In 2017, Yasmin embraced her aromantic-asexual identity, propelling her activism. She initiated the influential #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike movement, earned a seat on the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) board, and co-created International Asexuality Day. Her unorthodox approach to activism has captured global attention on many occasions. She broke barriers as the first asexual individual to grace the cover of Attitude Magazine and introduced the world to its first asexual pop-up bar, backed by Budweiser. She bagged the 2021 Attitude Pride Award, marking her as the first openly aromantic-asexual activist to secure an LGBTQ+ award.
Yasmin’s accolades don’t end there. She was listed on the Attitude101 Influential Figures List, made it to the Visible100 List, and spearheaded the UK’s maiden asexual rights initiative in collaboration with Stonewall, the Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project. Adding another feather to her cap, Yasmin recently triumphed as the Campaigner/Influencer of the Year at the Rainbow Honours, and she now serves as a celebrity ambassador for The Prince’s Trust. Keep reading to learn more about Yasmin’s involvement with NYC Pride and the future of ace activism.
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Gayety: Historically ace folks often find themselves relegated to the margins of Pride celebrations, if they’re included at all. What message do you have for young ace folks out there trying to carve out a space for themselves during Pride month?
Yasmin: This is our space. Asexual people are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We belong at Pride as much as everyone else. It’s just as essential for us to feel it, to experience it, to celebrate it, and to unite with the rest of the community to fight for our equality. I encourage all aces to forget about the discourse, get out there, and make some noise. If we don’t, then we’ll always be invisible.
Gayety: There are some that think of Pride parades as inherently sexual events. What do you have to say to those people as the first-ever asexual grand marshal of NYC Pride?
Yasmin: Pride isn’t just about sex because being queer isn’t just about sex. There’s so much more to our experiences and identities than who we’re having sex with and how. But the sexual elements that are present aren’t a problem. Asexuality doesn’t mean being anti-sex, and Pride should be a space where people should be able to be open about how they feel, whether they want to have loads of sex or none at all. Pride is a protest, a celebration, and a campaign that challenges heteronormativity, and your discourse about sexuality is incomplete if asexuality isn’t included.
Gayety: Both the U.S. and the U.K. are in the depths of a moral panic surrounding queerness right now, making this quite a symbolic moment. As the only British grand marshal at NYC Pride, and the creator of #InternationalAsexualityDay, what can queer folks learn from one another on an international level?
Yasmin: It isn’t the easiest time to be queer right now, which makes Pride events even more important. I’m really grateful to be able to bring some asexual representation to NYC Pride for both the British and the American aces out there. They say that there’s strength in numbers and knowledge is power, so I really believe that awareness and allyship between queer people in the UK and the US is essential. Our countries are practically siblings. We tend to mirror, influence and imitate each other, so we can learn from each other and stand together to combat this pearl-clutching moral panic that’s impacting us all.
Before You Go
Don’t forget, it’s our job to extend the sphere of influence for asexual folks. It’s our job to rally allies to support Yasmin’s work and research. If you’ve made it this far, follow her on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the latest news. Consider writing to your representative about sexual rights in your area, and keep up with Yasmin to see her march at NYC Pride.