In 2021, season 7 of the CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow” gave us the first asexual superhero.
In what Digital Spy writer David Opie called “one of the best, and queerest, shows out there,” the character Spooner came out in a rather unconventional way – during a game of smash, marry, kill with another character, Zari.
Zari asked Spooner if she were interested in any of the male characters, and Spooner stated that she wasn’t. This led Zari to ask if Spooner was into any of the female characters. Spooner said she wasn’t into them, either.
Zari then asks Spooner what her type is, and Spooner says she doesn’t get those types of feelings for anyone.
Spooner then stated what many aces (a term for asexual people) feel living in a world so focused on sex – feelings of perceived brokenness. When Spooner said, “I guess it’s something the mushroom aliens messed up about me,” she was getting at that common feeling among aces of social alienation and exclusion.
Spooner represents everything I felt when I first realized I was asexual at age 26.
In that scene, she spoke to a moment of vulnerability that I remember feeling all too well during my self-realization. This is why asexual representation matters.
The fact that Spooner is BIPOC is also important. So far, ace representation has mostly involved white male characters who tend to either be socially awkward or deeply engrossed in their work – a la Sheldon from the “Big Bang Theory,” Dexter, and Sherlock Holmes.
All three characters don’t particularly display the range or spectrum of asexuality, nor do they represent the racial and ethnic diversity found within the ace community.
This leads to countless negative stereotypes about asexual people – that we’re cold, aloof, indifferent, callous, desensitized to humanity, robotic, socially awkward, not particularly attractive, oblivious to sexual interests, unaffectionate and unfriendly.
This also leads to another harmful stereotype – that all aces are white.
This year, I took a trip to Minneapolis, where my friends and I visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In the museum, there were exhibits on stereotypes about the Black community. One painting featured a heavier-set black woman with darker skin carrying a frying pan while standing in a field, a display of the Mammy stereotype that ultimately desexualizes black women as “the help.”
In another painting, there was a picture of a lighter-skinned black woman displaying the pose of the Jezebel, appearing as a sultry adulteress.
The exhibit showed how Black people’s bodies are sexualized and dehumanized, completely devoid of the person behind the stereotypes.
In her article for Rebellious Magazine, Ebony Purks related these stereotypes to the struggle of Black aces to find proper representation.
“The asexual experience for white people is not the same for racially and ethnically marginalized people,” Purks wrote. “Black aces and other asexuals of color must fight against stereotypes like the Jezebel, the Mammy, the China doll or the Geisha Girl, or the desexualized Asian male trope that have historically stripped our personhood of any nuance.”
She went on to say that many Black and POC communities view asexuality as something only for white people.
“Worse, people suspect asexuality is a tool of white supremacy,” she continued. “Black asexual women may find asexuality to be a difficult label for themselves because society views the relationship between Black womanhood and sexuality through a binary lens. In the Western colonial hivemind, Black women are either inherently sexualized or inherently desexualized beings.”
Growing up as a Black cisgender male, I, myself, consistently didn’t feel like I fit in. I didn’t see myself in the Black male representation that was displayed on the screen. All the Black men on television, in music videos, and in movies were some combination of gangsters and players, always out trying to get laid by a slew of women.
The only examples of a Black nerdy kid like me were Steve Urkel from “Family Matters” and Carlton from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” both of whom were supposed to be seen with derision for not being “attractive.”
The stereotype of the gangster, hustler, and heterosexual player as a “real man” left me feeling left out.
I didn’t see myself represented anywhere. I have never been in a relationship, I have never had sex, and I have never been particularly interested in those things. So growing up, I always had an estranged relationship with my Blackness. I never saw myself as “really Black.”
That fact led to deep feelings of insecurity into my adult years. I wasn’t really “Black,” but I obviously wasn’t white. I was more of an “Oreo,” as many of my classmates would call me as an insult. I was called the whitest Black person they ever met because I didn’t speak or act like the “typical Black male.”
I had never seen asexuality in Black television, movies, or literature growing up. I hoped for someone like Spooner when I was a teenager. Seeing her on television as a teen would have helped me sort out my feelings.
I didn’t discover I was asexual until age 26, partially due to not knowing that asexuality was something I could have possibly been. I would have loved to have learned about asexuality at a much younger age and been told it’s okay and normal to not be interested in sex.
I’m so happy that there is now more LGBTQ representation on television, and that young people can now access so much information on the vast assortment of LGBTQ identities.
The increase in asexual characters since I came out six years ago is a welcoming sight, but we are still lacking in Black asexual representation.
That being said, I am thankful for the Black aces who are making their voices heard, people like Yasmin Benoit. Identifying as aroace (aromantic asexual), Benoit is a model, activist, and the creator of the hashtag, #Thisiswhatasexualitylookslike.
Benoit was instrumental to my coming out. Seeing her courage and boldness in taking on acephobes who love to pathologize asexuality as a disorder and calling out practices like conversion therapy (of which aces are at a higher risk) gives me encouragement to step forward as well.
As a lingerie model, Benoit also breaks through common asexual stereotypes. Benoit shows that people can look and dress however they want without it being sexual and shows that one can be attractive in non-sexual ways. Asexual people often talk about the split-attraction model, the idea that there are more ways than one to feel attraction to someone.
Being a Black woman, Benoit also shows that asexuality is for everyone. That is why asexual representation matters.
By embracing asexuality and all its intersections, the LGBTQ community can draw closer to destroying those false stereotypes around sexuality and help people embrace exactly who they are.
As Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”