In Iceland there are many misconceptions surrounding asexuality and to the general public asexuality is still relatively unknown, says Gyða Bjarkadóttir a member of a group called Asexual in Iceland (Asexual á Íslandi). The group intends to change that by taking part in this year’s Reykjavík Pride parade. It’s the first time asexual people in Iceland march together as a group in the parade.
“We’ve formed a group that will be participating in the Reykjavík Pride Parade. The asexual flag has of course been seen in the parade before, but as far as we know this will be the first time asexual people actually march together in it as a group,” says Gyða, but for those who are not familiar with the matter, asexual people are individuals who experience little or no sexual attraction towards other people.
Come to think of it, it seems that asexual people haven’t been very visible in Iceland. Is that due to prejudice? Are asexual people faced with prejudice here?
“Well, not in the form of outright legal discrimination, like not being able to marry, adopt or have children and things like that. It has more to do with not being acknowledged as a group in society,” she says, meaning that many people seem to have a hard time fathoming the idea that there are actually those who don’t want to have sex. “Not wanting sex simply can’t be a thing, right? There must be something wrong that can be fixed.”
That’s one form of the prejudice according to the group. “Then there is also the more serious issue of corrective rape, i.e. when someone who is asexual is forced into being sexually active. There are even cases when asexuals do that on their own accord to try to conform to society’s expectations. Even though they don’t want to do it, they feel like they have to.”
So, would you say there are many misconceptions surrounding asexuality in Iceland?
“If people know of asexuality in general, then yes there is some misunderstanding. Many people think it’s a choice, like celibacy. Or that it has to do with hormonal imbalance, which is not the case. Asexuality is not caused by a hormonal imbalance, mental illness or past experiences like sexual abuse. It is not being afraid of sex or relationships. Finding the right person doesn’t fix it.
“We’ve formed a group that will be participating in the Reykjavík Pride Parade. The asexual flag has of course been seen in the parade before, but as far as we know this will be the first time asexual people actually march together in it as a group.”
Many asexuals still seek romantic relationships that are like any other romantic relationships, just without the sex. Because sexual attraction is separate from romantic attraction. Like homoromantics who are romantically attracted to members of the same-sex or gender. Or aromantics who feel little or no romantic attraction to other people, but can be heterosexual. And there there are of course asexual aromantics, i.e. persons who experiences both little sexual and romantic attraction towards people, or none at all.
That said, being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t feel any sexual attraction. Some asexual people identify as gray asexual or graysexual, which means that have very little sexual attraction. Another group identifies as demi sexual, that is, they do not feel sexual attraction unless a romantic attraction has been established. Asexuality is basically an umbrella term for people who feel limited or no sexual attraction at all.”
On that note, what can you actually tell us about the asexual community in Iceland? For example is it big or small?
“The community is small even if you take into account that we just make up about one percent of the population. There might be several reasons for that. One is that asexuality is fairly unknown to people in general. And then there’s the fact that we’ve been a bit inactive as a group.”
Is there an association in Iceland you can join as an asexual or as an ally?
“Asexuals are a part of the National Queer Organization Samtökin ’78 but we haven’t been very active there,” they say and add that asexual people are however welcome to join their group. Everyone who is interested can get in touch through a new Facebook site they’ve set up.
“There was a discussion going on in a Faceboook group called Hinseginspjallið (an Icelandic queer chat group) where someone asked if there was some group for asexuals in Iceland, a place to point people to that needed it. What most of the people there and in general don’t know, is that there has in fact been an asexual Facebook group for some time, meant as a safe space for people to explore their asexuality, ask questions and get support. But it is closed and therefore hard to find. This is because not everybody there is ready to tell the world they are “ace” (a popular nickname for a person who is asexual). However, the discussion on Hinseginspjallið had the effect that a person in our group set up a public “like” page, where other people could contact us and join the group. And after that it wasn’t long until we started receiving our first messages.”
Gyða says that the role of the Facebook page is in part to educate people. “People can find out what asexuality is and if they relate to it, then they can join our little community,”she says and adds that because of lack of information on asexuality even some of the group’s members didn’t realize until very late in life that they were asexual. The group hopes to help fix things like that with education through their Facebook site and also with increased visibility through events like the Pride Parade.
“It might sound silly to some, but its life changing to know that there are others like you and to find out that there’s nothing wrong with you even though you have little or no desire to have sex in this “sexual world”.”
“It might sound silly to some, but its life changing to know that there are others like you and to find out that there’s nothing wrong with you even though you have little or no desire to have sex in this “sexual world”,” they say. “Knowing that there is nothing mentally or physically wrong with you and that you don’t need to change is just amazing, especially after struggling with who you are for a long time. That you were simply made this way. That you’re perfectly normal. Our site and our participation in the Pride Parade are steps to get that message out there.”
And now the Pride Parade is just around the courner. Do you guys have anything else coming up? Any organised events?
“Apart from perparing for the Pride parade, which of course involves a lot of work, we’re working on putting more content on our new Facebook site, both facts and fun,” they say. “So should anything come up, i.e. any events, then we will definitely post it there.”
The group encourage everyone who’s interested in asexual issues to take a look at their site: Asexual á Íslandi. There you can join the closed Facebook group for asexuals and aromantics (including gray and demi). And allies are also welcome to get in touch if they have questions. Just send them a message! “We will try to answer them and help the best we can.”
Main photo: Sigurþór Gunnlaugsson