Sarah Beckenhauer knows the struggle that comes with being marginalized for her sexuality, even within the LGBT+ community.
Beckenhauer, a University of Nebraska at Omaha freshman majoring in English, identifies as asexual.
Asexuality, or ace spectrum, is an identity not associated with the sexual desires that allosexual people, people who have sexual desires, have, said Jessi Hitchens, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at UNO.
Beckenhauer said she first discovered her sexuality by spending time with friends who would tell dirty jokes or talk about their sex lives, but she never really understood what they found so great.
“I wasn’t getting turned on by anything,” she said.
It’s hard to tell how many people at UNO identify as ace or on the ace spectrum, Hitchins said.
“There are no good numbers because we live in a sexual society, where everyone thinks everyone else is allosexual,” she said.
Hitchins said asexuality is a spectrum that ranges from feeling no sexual desire to only very limited sexual desire or to only feeling desire in special cases. Asexual, or ace, she said, is used as an umbrella term. Asexual people may have romantic relationships or may even have sex.
“These are not people with low libido,” Hitchins said. “These are not people who are survivors of sexual assault. They’re not people that are abstaining. Those folks all have sexual desires.”
Hitchins parodied a tagline used in the movie “Love, Simon,” which came out in March. She said she loved “Why is straight the default?” but changed it up to “why is allosexual the default?”
The LGBT+ community has been growing worldwide, Hitchins said, and she believes that numbers for ace spectrum will also be on the rise as people become more comfortable with being their full, authentic selves.
“Once asexuals have a more specific platform, because they’re still not in the media in any real way, that will change how other people feel comfortable identifying,” Hitchins said.
Beckenhauer said her coming out process took time. Her mother didn’t believe that asexuality was real.
Beckenhauer said her mother has claimed that she just needs to have sex to know or that she just needs to find the right person. She said one of her coworkers has told her that he would have sex with her and change her mind. She also mentioned someone she knows often asks her, in passing, if she is sure she is ace.
“He isn’t doing it to be mean or anything. He’s just joking…it was hard to wrap his head around it,” Beckenhauer said.
Hitchins said many people within the LGBTQ community may not be aware of asexual people or acknowledge their existence.
“So asexual people experience marginalization from both the queer and trans community as well as the straight and cis community,” she said.
Beckenhauer said that the LGBT community could do a better job recognizing the ace community.
Be mindful that this is an identity that people hold, Hitchins said.
“Don’t bully people to be outside of who they really are.”
Despite difficulty building meaningful relationships, Beckenhauer said she stands proudly with the asexual flag, surrounded by black, gray, white and purple.