Yasmin Benoit is breaking new ground this International Asexuality Day!
It’s an interesting time to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Exciting, confusing, and sometimes terrifying. In some ways, progress marches on. Queer people come out now at a higher rate than ever before. Conversion therapy bans continue to pass from New Zealand all the way to Idaho. On the other hand, anti-trans legislation is sweeping the US and the UK isn’t fairing much better. All of this is with the relative visibility that, especially gay folks, experience within the queer community. Meanwhile, ace and aro folks find their stories relegated to the margins of LGBTQIA+ advocacy — asexual rights and protections often go ignored, at best.
Meet Yasmin Benoit
“When I first mentioned on social media that I was asexual, I had no intention of becoming a voice for the asexual community,” said Yasmin Benoit in an essay penned for Cosmopolitan. “I was a Black gothic student from Berkshire who got sat on at school because I was that invisible.” Despite this, Benoit has gone on to become one of the most recognizable faces in the asexual activism space. Her work as an alternative lingerie model challenged users to question everything they thought they knew about asexuality. That is if they know anything at all.
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Benoit, an award-winning asexual and aromantic activist, has spent years diligently using her platform to uplift asexual folks like her. She does this in the face of rampant acephobia and anti-Blackness, even from within our own community. By launching the #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike campaign, and co-launching the first-ever International Asexuality Day (April 6th), Benoit has been tireless in her efforts. And that was just her warm-up.
Stonewall x Yasmin: Ace Project
Benoit continues to add to her long list of accomplishments. With this exciting new initiative, the activist can now add “researcher” to her credentials. The “Ace Project” is an innovative effort to conduct research into the issue of asexual discrimination in the UK. Together with Stonewall, Benoit will put together a report, providing a clear set of actions to influence policy and legislation.
Stonewall is the biggest LGBTQ+ rights organization in Europe and has been pivotal in the fight for equality. “Now they’ll be pivotal in protecting the ace community too,” Benoit wrote in her announcement post.
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This research is desperately needed. According to the Government’s National LGBT Survey, asexual respondents had one of the lowest life satisfaction scores, with 5.9 out of 10. This is in contrast to 7.7 out of 10 for the general UK population. 89% of respondents have avoided being open about their sexual orientation, and 10% have been offered or undergone conversion therapy. Asexuality is also not covered by the UK Equality Act 2010.
“While many are aware of some of the challenges that asexual people face, there’s a concerning absence of research on their experiences,” says Stonewall. According to the organization, this is often due to a “historic lack of engagement” with ace communities. This research will attempt to address this vast gap in LGBTQIA+ research. The research will also hopefully tackle the “dehumanizing myths and misconceptions,” ace people face in the UK and beyond.
Overlooked No More
Although ace folks have played an integral role in the fight for queer rights, their stories have gone untold. This is in part due to the lack of information that feeds misinformation and stigmas surrounding asexuality and aromanticism. This is despite the fact that there are an estimated 295,768 to 672,200 asexual folks in the UK. “When it comes to data, research, reports, academia, […] that is where information about asexuality is really lacking,” says Benoit.
“We need to make sure that it is equal for everyone that falls under the umbrella,” she added. This groundbreaking project is another step in the journey. One that will hopefully lead to more awareness, representation, and critical protections for asexual folks in the UK and beyond.
Stonewall and Benoit want to speak to ace folks who have experienced acephobia in education, healthcare, or the workplace. If you are over 18, based in the UK, and interested in sharing your experiences, contact [email protected]o.uk. Visit Stonewall for more.