Pride 2019 Recap

A group of about 20 people walking down a street holding signs and flags. People at the front of the group are holding a banner with the TAAAP logo and the words "The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project."

TAAAP was thrilled to participate in a number of different pride events this June. Attending pride events and representing asexuality and aromanticism helps us to spread awareness of our identities and connect with the larger LGBTQ+ community.

Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C.

A group of 15 people pose with a variety of flags and signs behind a banner that has the TAAAP logo and the words "The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project, taaap.org"
TAAAP’s contingent waiting to march at the Capital Pride Parade.

On Saturday, June 8th, we marched in the Capital Pride Parade for the second time. About 20 marchers joined us decked out in ace colors, aro colors, and more. Thanks to a generous donation from Asexuality Archive, we were able to fly full-size greyromantic, demiromantic, grey-asexual, and demisexual flags in addition to the aromantic and asexual flags. We passed out stickers that said “LGBTQIA: the A stands for Asexual, Aromantic, Agender,” and enjoyed meeting aces and aros on the sidelines.

A square image with a green, grey, and purple border and a white center. The text in the center says "LGBTQIA: the A stands for Asexual, Aromantic, Agender." The text on the border says TAAAP.ORG.
The sticker TAAAP passed out at Capital Pride.

Baltimore Pride Parade

A black woman holds an ace flag in one hand and the TAAAP banner in the other hand. Behind her there are other marchers holding a variety of flags and signs.
TAAAP marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade.

On Saturday, June 15th, we marched in the Baltimore Pride Parade for the first time. We had about 10 marchers in our contingent wearing their most ace and aro attire. The Baltimore Pride Parade felt very community-driven, and we really enjoyed our time there.

Northern Maryland Pride

Four people pose outdoors in front of an ace flag. There is a leather flag in the background.
(From left to right) Skyler, Emily, Tori, and Isabel at the Frederick Pride Festival

Several of our members took a road trip up to northern Maryland on Saturday, June 22nd. The first stop was the Frederick Pride Festival. Next, we were pleased to be able to attend the first annual Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride Festival.

WorldPride in New York City

Five people standing in front of the conference schedule poster, holding the asexual, aromantic, and genderqueer flags.
(From left to right) Isabel, Laura, Alex, Axel, and Mykie at the Human Rights Conference

A few of our members attended events in New York City for WorldPride. At the Human Rights Conference on Tuesday, June 25th, we participated on a panel on Overlooked Identities in the Queer Community. Later that week, we were able to attend the premiere screening of the upcoming Asexuals documentary.

Four people pose in front of a building.
(From left to right) Laura, Emily, Steph, and Anzo outside the Grace Institute after the Ace & Aro Conference

On Saturday, June 29th, we attended the Ace & Aro Conference hosted by Aces NYC and AVEN. Asexuality conferences have been a part of WorldPride since it was hosted by London in 2012; however this was the first conference that was also dedicated to aromanticism. The Ace & Aro Conference featured a number of guest speakers as well as unconference-style sessions that allowed attendees to create sessions that best fit what they wanted to attend.

A person wearing a baseball hat and a green shirt with facepaint that says NYC over a rainbow in ace flag colors.
Emily at the NYC Pride March

Last but certainly not least, we attended the NYC Pride March on Sunday, June 30th as a part of the Aces NYC marching contingent. About 80 people marched, and we encountered many other aces and aros in the crowds.

A History of Aces at Creating Change: An Interview with Bauer

Creating Change 2019 was the first time an official Ace and Aro Hospitality Suite was included as part of the conference program. This victory was built upon the presence ace activists have been forging at Creating Change for years, organizing and hosting suites that brought people together when the conference programming did not. Bauer of Aces NYC talks with TAAAP social media committee member Aria about the gradual, uphill battle of cementing an ace, and eventually aro, presence at Creating Change.

Aria: When did you start attending the conference?

Bauer: I had heard about Creating Change from David Jay and Mary Kame Ginoza, who had both been before. For Creating Change 2015 in Denver, I had submitted a proposal to do a presentation on asexuality research that got accepted. Mary and I ended up connecting with a few other ace people, and we really just didn’t have anywhere to hang out. We would find hallways or sit on the floor for hours. It felt very much like there wasn’t really a space for us to go somewhere, but that being able to spend time with each other was so special and important in comparison to what we generally had access to in our lives outside of the conference.

A: Creating Change lasts several days and has a super packed schedule. Did it just feel instinctive to keep meeting up throughout the conference whenever there was free time?

B: I think what happened was we all ended up meeting and going to dinner, and then kept hanging out afterwards. One person would be like, “I have this other friend who’s going to come hang out with us!” And then someone would leave but then come back and find us. We sort of would not move from the spot where we had gathered to make sure people would come back to us. We exchanged numbers and Facebook info so we could find each other at different points in time.

A: When did an ace presence start to gain momentum at Creating Change?

B: David Jay screened his documentary at Creating Change 2012 in Baltimore. He had submitted the proposal multiple times and it finally got accepted. After playing the documentary he said, “I don’t think we have enough time in the session to continue, but I will be out in the hallway to answer questions for anybody who wants to keep talking about this.” He said there was a group of people standing in the hallway for about an hour or hour and a half. That crowd signaled to Creating Change that asexuality is actually something people are interested in, and we do not have enough space to be able to talk about it.

A: After the documentary screening in 2012, what was the process of increasing ace visibility at the conference like?

B: It has definitely been our experience that at each stage, we have to try for several years before we can work towards the next step. For example there were a lot of rejected proposals before we eventually got a workshop session. After Mary and I attended CC 2015 in Denver, she suggested we send them a letter requesting asexuality as a topic you can submit workshops to when they have the topic listings in the program, as well as having an inclusion guide similar to the bi and trans etiquette guides in the conference program. Mary drafted the letter and I helped edit it, and then we got as many asexual organizers as we could to sign off on it. We submitted it to Creating Change and never heard back. We also tried it the next year and never heard back. But after Denver 2015, I was determined to make sure we had a space where we could invite the people we would connect with to come hang out. So for Creating Change 2016 in Chicago I rented an extra room—which very luckily got upgraded to a king suite—and let people use it as an unofficial suite. I even let people stay in the room to help subsidize the cost. At one point the people at Creating Change who were in charge of organizing the suites came to visit and we were just like, “Oh hello, hi! Don’t mind us!” I thought we might get in trouble, but they were like “No, this is great!” That year, there was someone on the host committee who was ace. I think that played a role in the host committee finding out about our unofficial ace suite and beginning to talk to us. That was the year we semi-officially started networking. I think when there’s an ace person in the organization it makes it much harder for them to ignore what we’re saying because people on their team in the room with them are representing a similar message.

A: Were there other people at the conference who supported your efforts to create spaces for ace people?

B: The bi suite has always been the most engaged and helpful and has served as a community resource. I can’t speak highly enough of the bi suite. I think part of why they reached out was because they have experienced similar things where they were unsure about whether they were invited or whether they should be there. So they wanted to help and make sure we did not experience those same things.

A: In 2016 when you all had the first unofficial suite and some host committee members found out…how do you think that situation came about?

B: We had been advertising and tweeting, we had been telling everybody at every session, and I had made little programs about all the ace-related things happening at the conference so people had a way to come find us. People who had taken those pamphlets attended other suites and asked if they could be included in their distribution pamphlet table. The people at the other suites had a reaction of, “Sure! That’s fine…who are you? What are you doing?” So we were making ourselves known, and I think it trickled up to the host committee who decided to come check out what we were doing.

A: So were they mainly just curious?

B: Yeah, they were kind of just like, “Oh! What’s happening, what’s going on?” and we were like, “Oh hi! There’s a bunch of people in here, we’re just hanging out.” Some of us were talking, playing cards, etc. They were just like, “Oh okay! This is cool.” I had been really nervous, but their reaction was more neutral and curious. Their response was not to give us a suite next year, but they also did not accuse us of usurping their conference resources or tell us to not create our own space.

A: That reaction is interesting because in online spaces you see the extreme sides of the spectrum: people who advocate for ace inclusion and those who are against it. But it seems like your experience at the conference with how people reacted reflects more of a grey area.

B: For sure. When you would walk into the first unofficial ace suite, it certainly didn’t look like a bunch of straight people. Not that straight people look a particular way, but we definitely were holding a very queer space. I think people in the LGBTQIA community are concerned about the idea of giving space to “straight” people. My response to that is A) first of all, you are not giving us space, and B) beyond that, we found a lot of people who wanted to come hang out with us because they were already going to Creating Change. I do not think that there were any people who came to the conference specifically for the asexuality aspect. They were just already there. So people who are coming to the conference are already self-selected, and there just happen to be a whole bunch of people who identify with asexuality that attend Creating Change. They are going to be the ones who are excited about the workshops and the suite. When it comes to who can be in LGBTQIA spaces, I have more of an issue with giant corporation floats marching in pride rather than the 25 of us walking down the street with an ace banner. Yes, we are asking for space: we are asking for space for 25-35 people in your pride march of thousands. The people who show up to those spaces are people who have generally found that their sexual orientation does not mesh with the societal norm. And so the places to talk about sexual orientation, and now romantic orientation, are often in queer spaces. It makes a lot of sense to me that those spaces are where people would be drawn to. It seems that spaces that are trans friendly and spaces that have younger constituents are more open to asexuality, and now aromanticism, being included.

A: It seems like the amount of people who would show up for anything ace-related at CC served as proof that there needs to be more space.

B: Yeah. We are never going to be massive, but we deserve more than one session. I think one of the other things about a suite in particular is that a lot of the activities are not the general evening activities that are promoted by the conference. They have parties, they have alcohol-based events and things like that. A quieter space to hang out, play some games, maybe have some discussions is not what everyone is looking for, but does seem particularly popular among the ace and aro people who show up. This past year, the bi suite was closed for the afternoon and evening on Saturday, so we invited the entirety of the bi suite into the ace and aro suite and it was a really big hit.

A: Do you think the ace and aro suite will be a recurring part of Creating Change program?

B: I hope so. It certainly helps when there is [an asexual meetup] group in the city that the conference is going to be at. We are excited about next year’s conference in Dallas because there’s a somewhat active ace group there who can join the host committee. This year they did let a few of us who were not local be on the subcommittee for the ace and aro suite and we were included in some the planning process. I think as time goes on we will have more organizing in a variety of places.

A: Do you envision the ace and aro suite as eventually becoming two separate suites: one for aces and one for aros?

B: I think they work well together and that it would continue to work as a joint suite. I am not aro, so I did not feel comfortable making the commitment to having a suite be an aro suite without aro people committing to representing it. Now that we have more of that commitment, it seems like a good thing to have eventually. Over time, I think aromanticism is going to be more popular than asexuality. I think aromanticism is actually more prevalent, and it has a large potential to grow. Particularly at an LGBTQ+ conference, I think there might be more people who do not identify as ace who would identify as aro. I am interested to see how that takes shape over the years when aromanticism becomes more well-known. I am glad that so far there hasn’t been too much pushback about us doing a disservice to the aromantic community by having the suite be linked to asexuality, because that is definitely something I have heard in general: please do not put “aro” in the name when you do not have the programming to back it up. For the Ace and Aro Conference we are doing in June for WorldPride, we are making a really concerted effort to make sure there is aro-specific representation, as well as representation for people who are aro and not ace. I look forward to having aro organizations we can partner with for future events, as well as to support aro work being done by aro people.

A: I look forward to that, too. Final question to wrap up: what would you like to see happen with asexuality at future Creating Change conferences?

B: I think the first thing I would really like is to have more 201 or 301 conversations about asexuality in the workshops. That would be awesome. There’s a lot of 101-level sessions that center more around what asexuality is, and I would love to move beyond that. I am so excited to pass any torches I can to anyone willing to take it up. Having representatives from TAAAP and the Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic meetup group has been great, and just continuing to have more volunteers in the conference cities that are interested in participating. I am really excited for the year I can go to Creating Change and just be a participant, to be able to come full circle and say, “If you need help with something I can help, but I am actually just here as an attendee rather than as someone in charge of something.”

TAAAP at Pride 2019

We are thrilled to announce that The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project will be representing asexuality and aromanticism at Pride events throughout the DC and Mid-Atlantic region! Below are a list of events and dates. If you are in the area and would like to join us, just send us a message at advocacy@taaap.org. The more, the merrier!

  • Saturday, June 8: We will be marching in the Capital Pride Parade for the second year in a row, as the first ace and aro organization to march in DC Pride.
  • Saturday, June 15: We will be marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade for the first time.
  • Saturday, June 22: We will be attending Frederick Pride in Frederick, MD.
  • Saturday, June 22: We will be attending the first annual Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride in Havre de Grace, MD.
  • Monday, June 24-25: We will be hosting, moderating, and speaking on a panel at the Human Rights Conference as part of WorldPride NYC for the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall. This panel will focus on the underrepresented and overlooked identities in the queer community, including ace, aro, bi+, genderqueer, and intersex speakers.
  • Saturday, June 29: We will be attending the Ace & Aro Conference 2019 for WorldPride.

We hope to see you there!

A Reflection on the Carnival of Aros

After reading the entries to February’s Carnival of Aros prompt and many of the discussions that followed, we would like to start this post by apologizing for choosing a topic that alienated some aros. Most of us here at TAAAP are aroaces, and we did not do enough to seek out the opinions of aros who are not part of or do not feel included in the ace community.

We want to do better in the future, and we are starting by reflecting on the Carnival of Aros. The following post contains our thoughts on the events leading up to the launch of the Carnival of Aros, the Carnival itself, and the discussions that have followed.

After rebranding as The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project late last year to reflect our focus on aro and ace inclusion and advocacy, we wanted to more fully participate in the ace and aro communities online. We decided to host a month of the Carnival of Aces, as several of our members had contributed to or hosted one previously. Since it was on our mind, we decided we wanted to talk about the relationship between the ace and aro communities. We knew this relationship was strained, and we wanted to get a wide variety of perspectives on why that was, particularly since our goal is to advocate for both identities equally. Several of our members were especially enthusiastic about this prompt for more personal reasons, and were interested in reading about others’ experiences.

We reached out to Siggy at the Asexual Agenda (the blog that runs the Carnival of Aces), who was interested in the prompt but wondered if the Carnival of Aces should be rebranded to include aros. We did not like that idea, since we didn’t think the carnival would equally prioritize ace and aro prompts due to the fact that it had been ace-focused for so long. He then suggested asking an aro blogger to start a separate Carnival of Aros that would only intersect with the Carnival of Aces on this first prompt, and would be completely independent. We felt this was a great idea.

We thought having the launch topic intersect with the Carnival of Aces would be a good way to publicize the new Carnival of Aros. We meant for the topic to be inclusive of anyone on the ace or aro spectrum, but we did not realize how allosexual aromantic folks might feel about the first prompt topic for Carnival of Aros be connected to asexuality. Since we were involved in the whole process of how the prompt and the carnival came to be, we were not able to see how it would look to those who were not involved and who only saw the end result. There may have been solutions, had we thought of them; for instance, making our idea a later prompt for the Carnival of Aros, so it could be established as an aro-focused event first.

This post is coming over a month and a half after the February Carnival ended. We took some time to process the comments we read and to talk to some of the people who were hurt. We understand how despite our intentions, there were people who felt alienated by the way the Carnival of Aros rolled out. We are very sorry for our lack of foresight and the hurt that it caused. We hope that the Carnival of Aros can move past the rough start it had, and that we can all continue working together towards more resources and communities for all aromantic people.

In that spirit, we are proactively working to understand ahead of time what the aro community needs by reading non-ace aro perspectives and inviting non-ace aros to join us in the work that we do. However, our organization does not currently have members who represent every way of being ace or aro. While this is something we certainly plan on working to improve, we also know we will never be perfect in this regard because there are as many ways of being ace and aro as there are ace and aro people. We may not be able to anticipate all of the potential pitfalls of our actions, and as a result we may make mistakes in the future. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you ever think of a way we can improve any of our projects, or—even better— if you would like to become involved yourself.