Be Ace, Do Anarchy: Blackness, Asexuality, and the Ungoverned

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Image description: an African raised fist over a darker blue background. The word ‘Anarkata’ many times: “Anarkata Freedom School Black August Kritical Kickback Series.” In a white box: “Be Ace, Do Anarchy: Blackness, Asexuality and the Ungoverned” on August 8th at 4pm EST on Zoom

Be Ace, Do Anarchy: Blackness, Asexuality, and the Ungoverned

  • Cohost started out with some bars about from “Kitty Pride” (the SQuAD rap)

“Y’all niggas lie and not really down

Wanna be’s buzz all around

Talk tough but yall really clowns

You on the grind, we on the prowl

We gon pull up, we want smoke witchya

Fake woke, get broke, nickgah

My team, no livestream

We move in silence like soul splitters

Go gettas, hittas, winnas

Initiators, saints, sinners

Build steady and get ready

We solvin it like paint thinners

Cuz we bout shit, we pop shit

We mop shit, we rock shit

Wild thing Man cannot house,

Go knock em down, no ock shit.

  • Our Host spit some bars about Ace/Aro experience over a track:

“I love you but you odeein

You love me but got no reason

I love you but you odeein

You think you love me but you just dreamin…

I kinda like it that

You don’t like me back

I won’t chase you down 

I’m just that vibin cat

I lie on my back, cause I rise up

They lie behind my back

But we know the facts

Look me in my eyes

You see the future, past

Now your future’s passed

Please don’t waste ya time

Tryna pick up scraps

I just want my music fast

So I can shake my ass

Let my head fall back

Neck relaxed

Just like that

Just like that

Then it wind down slow

So I can grind down low

I like to, go with the flow

You could get lost with Key

But you know what you really want

And this ain’t cost friendly

I’m not here to tell you, who you ought to be

You hit my line and then you act like I’m the one calling

Pick up like baby baby

what you want from me?

Hold up like baby baby

We are not falling

That’s just not my thing

That just not my-


  • Introduction to who SQuAD is how we roll, what we focus on:

SQuAD, the Street Queer Anarkata Defenders, are a crew of trans, nonbinary, GNC Black Anarchic Radicals. We focus on mutual aid, political education, and self defense for Black T/GNC/NB folk on the front lines of houselessness and housing insecurity. We often use art, especially rap, to aid in the political education work we do, that’s why we started out with these two songs.

  • Introduction to this conversation’s theme:

This is a Kritical Kickback about Asexuality, Aromanticism, and Anarkata politic

  • Context on Black August: “During Black August, radicals commemorate the struggles of our incarcerated (and formerly incarcerated) community members, family, friends, and kin. First organized in the prisons of California in the 70s to honor fallen Freedom Fighters, Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, and Khatari Gaulden, the “Black August” tradition aims to honor Black political prisoners and the ongoing legacy of resistance against slavery… But, historically speaking, Black August has often put focus on the contributions and struggles of cis/het and abled Black men, overshadowing the lives and liberatory contributions of Black and disabled women and other maGes. We know for a fact, however that it is Black trans and disabled folk on the front lines of anti-black criminalization and State/capitalist violence. Since 2019, the Afrofuturist Abolitionists of the Americas has been working to redefine Black August intersectionally, through a series of Kritical Kickbacks framed around Black Anarchic Radical politic.”

  • Started with introducing ourselves 

  • ”Im glad to hear we have people here who are exploring [asexual and aromantic identity]”

  • Defining asexuality and aromanticism:

”Alot of people… hear the word ”asexual” or ”aromantic” and think that means you dont have sex ever… dont crave intimacy especially in a romantic context… But i hope we know it is deeper than that and there is a spectrum to [it]. There are different ways each Asexual or Aromantic relates to sex or romance. THe google definition is that Asexual is someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction and an Aromantic is someone who experiences little to no romantic attraction. What I like is they say ”little to no” as opposed to ”none.” I also like that it emphasises ”attraction” because there are different kinds of attraction.”

  • There may be sensual attraction, or aesthetic attraction, alongside sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and more.

  • Different people on the Ace and Aro spectrums relate to these forms of attraction differently.

  • ”Something I should have mentioned that Im a sex worker. That’s a huge mindfuck for someone who is new to understanding Asexuality… to see me doing that and being a proud asexual.”

  • ”There is also a difference between attraction and desire. There are plenty of Asexual folk who have desire for sex or romance, or other forms of intimacy, but it is not directed at anyone. They dont experience attraction to folk along those lines”

  • ”In the queer community we discuss the idea of compulsory heterosexuality: the way people are queer jump into heterosexual relationships because society tells them that this is the only possibility. They may not be feeling fulfilled in them because their vision is cut short. I want to extend that to this discussion. There is compulsory Allosexuality [and compulsory] romanticism [also known as amatonormativity], which is the opposite of our experience.”

  • ‘What does that mean then? If some of us are forcing ourselves into compulsory sexual or romantic experiences and relationships…”

  • ”Many folks see being queer through a sexual relationship… I think the imagination [here] helps us expand how we view gender too. Like you mentioned aesthetic attraction and it just makes me think about being drawn to people’s spirit.”

  • ”I really resonate with that. I know I see Asexuality and Aromanticism as tied to my nonbinary identity. I see Asexuality and Aromanticism as tied to the fact that my non-sexual/non-romantic attractions go across the gender spectrum.”

  • ”I guess it becomes about looking at people for who they are… for how they practice gender, rather than linking gender to sex. That is a very indigenous way of seeing things. These things feed each other. I [also]] identify as pansexual as well as Asexual too.” 

  • Cohost mentions Malidoma Patrice Some, talks about the Gender Variance Kickback with Yahya Toure, where we discuss indigenous Afrikan ways of knowing. In these understandings, people are not categorized in ways that marked sexual activity as a (static) idenity, especially not in a way that is biologically reductionist and binary. 

  • ”In a different world [a decolonized world] we would not identify as Aromantic or Asexual, because we would not need to. The world would just have sex, [and] we would [also] relate to people differently outside of sex.’

  • ”Those of us who grow up Ace and Aro might try to go to the ”normal” lifestyle in the same way that allosexuals would.”

  • ”We would not have compulsory allosexuality or alloromanticism if it was not for Europeans projecting their religious issues with sexuality, their demonization of it, onto the whole world. Part of what it meant to invent this modern idea of Human, human as a State subject, human as Europeans who get to oppress everyone—it meant taking the way sexuality was demonized by the church to justify oppression of European commoners, and re-applying it elsewhere so they can free themselves. Now, suddenly, Europeans could define themselves as the ”godly” being who has reasoned mastery over demonic sexuality. And Afrikan people and our lands became the domain of a demonic sexuality that had to be governed by Man as a State subject with rights.”

  • ”This is how we get into a world where sex is at the fore of everything, a world where there is a culture of shame, a world where people use sex as an unhealthily coping mechanism, a world where sex workers are devalued.”

  • ”How do we imagine a different world from an Ace/Aro lens?”

  • ”My personal relationship to Aromanticism is different from my relationship to Asexuality. In a different world, sex would be more expansive. Erotic pleasure can be found in different places. My sexual and even romantic relationships with my life, these climactic and deeply pleasurable experiences I have through art, the sun, hanging out with my friends. When people buy food for me, I am satisfied. Pleasure would be so expansive that sex would be de-centered. As an Ace/Aro person I already live in that. In my practice, then, if I do have sex with people, it is for different reasons. When I do it, it is either for money, or it is because of a mental or emotional or spiritual connection. Whereas with other people, they might have sex with folk to build those alternate connections.”

  • ”This makes me think of what Audre Lorde wrote in The Uses of the Erotic. I like that you brought up feeling the sun. Or meaningful conversation. People normally have sex at the forefront [of what relating should mean].”

  • Mentioned All About Love by bell hooks was a portal into thinking through Ace/Aro identity

  • ”Answering from a personal lens is difficult for me because I am still struggling to figure out how to give name to alternative forms of pleasure and fulfillment in my life, but from a political standpoint I know that a new world comes from us realizing that the way sex is centered in how relations and attraction and desire is experienced—even if people ”save it til marriage” like Christians—goes back to monogamy as a capitalist institution. And gender based hierarchies. So I am always reminding myself this that Ace/Aro identity is a touchstone for anarchic politics, and that is how I push myself.”

  • ”In organizing spaces, people tie things to sex alot, who they listen to.”

  • ”People base their comradeships and frienships off who they wanna fuck.”

  • ”People base that shit off who they have sexual attractive to.”

  • ”I love that you brought up power dynamics, because we wanted to talk about how Ace/Aro politics helps us challenge rape culture and build toward relationships of consent.” 

  • We issued a trigger warning, and giving people space to step out if you need to. Next three bullet points may be triggering

  • ”As an Ace/Aro person, when I force myself into [sexual and/or romantics] relationships or forms of intimacy with people because society tells me that those are the basis of human fulfillment, that is me violating my own boundaries, that is me trying to squeeze non-sexual/non-romantic fulfillment out of engaging in something I dont truly want in my soul. That is not consent culture.”  

  • ”I had to take a break off dating and sex because I realized I was not respecting my own boundaries. I started calling it ”self rape” because I was masturbating or putting myself into connections with people who I know only what sex because Im lonely. Because society tells us nothing else is as powerful as sex and romance to fill us up.” 

  • ”Ace/Aro people often experience ”corrective rape” too, which I feel like is connected to what you are speaking about except it is not done by the self, it is done by someone else. It all comes from the same assumption that everyone is or has to be sexual or romantic. Like folk saying ”maybe you have not found the right one” so they violate your boundaries. And especially as Black people, we are seen as hypersexual because of slavery and colonialism, it is assumed that we all want sex and cannot be Asexual. This happened to me in real time.”

  • ”Allosexuality and romanticism forces us to create relationships where people [bypass] folks’ individuality. In our social justice spaces we speak of consent culture and boundary setting, but the broader culture does not practice that. People would always be so surprised when I ask them questions [oriented around consent]. People will say to me ”you dont have to ask all those questions.” Some people will say that is a turn off for them!”

  • ”Like you said, ”it is not my body.” I am gonna ask before I do something. People are talking about consent now in the age of Me Too but when it comes down to it people are weirded out by [practicing] it.”

  • ”People feel like it is childish to be hesitant and careful with people”s boundaries, in the way they infantilize those who do not want sex.”

  • ”It makes me think of the inherent queerness of Asexuality. People who are seen as not wanting sex, they dont only get infantilized, but it is in this ableist way where they are also framed as a predatory. Ableism and criminalization impacts all queer people, whether Ace or not, because cisheteronormative society assumes everyone is sexual and does so in a way that tries to control how that sexuality unfolds—in a binarist way. And if you dont fit those standards, then they call you a sexual predator, even if you arent even a sexual being. The gag is, they are the ones who encourage predation. They are the ones that hypersexualize their children, even though they lie and say we are the ones trying to impose sexuality on their kids.” 

  • ”They are the ones that encourage predation. Their relationships often idealize the need for off balanced power dynamics in cisheteronormative relationships.”

  • ”There has to be more freedom. Fuck the binary.”

  • ”Society often conflates love and [abuse of] power as the same when they are actually in direct contrasts to one another.”

  • ”Throughout our culture society uses love and sex as a way to control and coerce people into hierarchical and capitalist/colonial ways of relating to each other. This is why in the name of love, parents will try to control their children’s very way of being, or people will control what their partners wear or how each person in a relationship uses their emotional labor, energy, or time.”

  • ”Would you rather a pregnant daughter or a gay son [is a perfect example]?” [we all laughed about this]

  • ”We have the capacity to change things. We dont have to love or relate in the ways we know, based on what we did or used to do with each other, or based on biology. We can change our relationships.”

  • “My relationships are stronger when I think of relationship anarchy and dont put sexual relationships above other kinds of relationships. It is so much easier to value everyone equally.”

  • ”We have this discussion when talking about oppressed groups, but also on an individual level, we dont need equality in our relationships. We can talk about equity. We can talk about our capacity to give to certain relationships. We can talk about not moving through certain unfair expectations. [Relationships anarchy can help with this].”

  • ”This is true even with friendships. Sometimes you are incapable of meeting people at their expectations. What would it mean if we redefined relationships based off what I can do for you and what you can do for me and how we can meet each other [on our own terms].”

  • “How can I bring everyone down [to the same level] and making it clear about how I know and see and feel and relate to a person on multiple levels. Not based on assumptions, but based on boundaries [that we set together].”

  • ”Im glad yall brought up friendship, conversations about capacity to give in relationships, and about mutual aid—what i can do for you, and you for me—because that is what is central to it for me. Alot of people think [relationship anarchy] is the same as polyamory, but polyamory is more about one’s capacity to love multiple people romantically. Relationship anarchy is bigger. My first journey into relationship anarchy was through my relationship to my younger siblings, through figuring out how to treat them in a way that didnt replicate the coercive love I was taught by my parents.”

  • ”Relationship anarchy is more expansive than polyamory. Polyamory centers romance (and even sex). Im glad you brought up its application to family, because it helped me work through trauma with my family. Now I dont have to let the position of power family have in my life make me force myself to deal with it, because of relationship anarchy. I can free myself. With my mother, I can look at ways she does not always fulfill that role for me, ways I cannot always fulfill that role for her as a child. I can free myself. And if I need a new mother, now I can get a new one, which is what Queer people do anyway.”

  • ”That reminds me of the Anarkata Statement [the Statement speaks of consolidating anarchic proposition around Black cultures of opposition] Black Queer folk already have a practice of moving beyond hierarchical relationships to form new kinship around mutual aid. We can extend that as a touchstone for relationship anarchy, and see all our relationships as stuff we can shift based on what needs we have to meet as oppressed people. With my ex, because of the conditions we were facing, we shifted our relationship’s terms and structure to meet the new needs that came up… That’s an important way we have to move when the [political] conditions change as Anarkatas, and we gotta adapt as organizers.”

  • ”When relationships break off, it does not mean they went wrong. Sometimes it means capacity changes and fluctuates and that is okay. Mainstream culture makes relationships contractual. There is alot of power dynamics and even gaslighting [when folk realize a relationship does not work anymore].”

  • [We talked about the way straight people often have toxic relationships to exes, etc. and these patterns would be solved by relationship anarchy, be solved if they moved toward accepting each other’s right to change or leave relationships based on changing conditions]

  • ”I dont need forever, im okay with being friends with exes, these are standards i dont hold myself to. I dont care to perform or prove love—you will know through what I do.” [These are lessons our Host gleans from Relationship Anarchy]

  • ”I wonder how little power cishet men would have to exploit people’s labor if folk were able to divest from proximity to them. If folk could form their relationships around consent, around their autonomy, and also in recognizing their queerness. And if folk could see it as valid if they had no sexual interest in these men (or anyone) altogether?”

  • Talk about how relationship anarchy can validate queerplatonic relationships, but how allosexual culture cannot see this

  • “”I feel like allosexuality and romanticism [amatonormativity] both enable the cooption of queer/trans liberation from what Marsha and Sylvia fought for. [the slogan] “love is love,” and the focus on sexuality at the Parades—both of them make appeals to the institution of marriage and of sex for and among white cis gays. I definitely think it is all connected. We need Black Ace and Black Aro voices to challenge the cooption of Pride.”

  • “‘The last thing that Black queer/trans people wanted was acceptance. The last thing we wanted was visibility. Visibility leads to the cooption. The white cis gays wanted marriage. What is the cis institution of marriage doing for Black queer people?”

  • ”Pride is peak expression of sexuality in a way that excludes asexuality. Bringing that out would challenge people at its core. Pride is cringey.”

  • ”I feel like white cis gays… Pride is just gays just want the equality that straight people. There is this obsession with having what straight white people have. It turned into assimilating into white culture.”

  • ”This is similar to what is happening to abolition.”

  • ”I like participating in self-naming and coming up with our own terms. I like [the notion] of Two Head. This colonial language is steeped in the binary.”

  • ”I struggle so much with language, wanting to use certain things but knowing that so much is having to accomodate other people and know I would not have to use it if we didnt live in the world we live in.”

  • [We discussed the way Black cis gay men replicate white cis gay Assimilationist and liberal representation politics (ie, Billy Porter).] 

  • “Cis gay men are still men. I dont care who he’s attracted to.”

  • ”How you feenin to be on tv and niggas not eatin?’ [talking about the weakness of representation politics and ”getting in the building” or getting a ”seat at the table” as a political goal]

  • [defining queerness as politic via Combahee River Collective]:

”Queerness is not just about identity. If we follow Combahee River Collective, a group of Black lesbian revolutionaries, an identity politic should be about making your radical politics attuned to the history and struggle a particular community is facing. Combahee kept facing isolation from cishet men in the Black Power movement and white people in anti-capitalist movements and feminist movements; so really giving name to identity politics was always about figuring out how to center the most marginal in your anti-colonial, feminist, and anti-capitalist politic. What identity politics is not about is representation in media, books, etc.”

  • ”Are queer spaces that center allosexuality queer? If they are not practicing the politic, and everyone is there, but moving through a facet of rape culture, then is that queer?  If we are all just viewing each other as sexual objects, can it be called queer?” 

  • [spoke about cishets who try to coopt ”queerness as politic” for themselves. This doesnt make sense when an identity politics is a ”by us, for us” thing where a particular community is articulating revolutionary movement through their particular histories of struggle. It is not self determination if outsiders are speaking as and for us. ”This is why anytime I define queerness as politic, I always refer back to Combahee, Black lesbian feminists.”]

  • [someone spoke about how realizing they were Aro helped them move away from forming relationships through codependency]

  • ”[Asexuality and relationship anarchy] is related to our organizing. We get fulfillment from different folks when we dont see [everything as] about sex. It moves us toward abundance. It is unrealistic, unhealthy, and not right when we center sexual fulfillment in how we form all our relationships.”

  • Towards the end we talked about how groundbreaking this Kickback has been. Very rarely are discussions about Asexuality either Black centered or radical. The way we brought this discussion from the historical and theoretical to the personal and practical and critical is really unique.

Suggested Resources:

What People NEED to Know about Asexuality (pdf) – Yasmin Benoit does bring up the connection between industry/advertisement and the erasure of Asexuality

How Romanticism Ruined Love (video) – this video is still centered on monogamy and capitalist lifestyles but informative anyway about the European origin of ”romantic” ideas

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic (audio) or (pdf) – important Black feminist touchstones about liberatory relating that Black people can use

bell hooks, All About Love (pdf) – important Black feminist touchstones about liberatory relating that Black people can use

Am I a Lesbian? Masterdoc (pdf) – this contains a lot of questions and dialogue that is relevant to asexuality/aromanticism

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson: Listen to the Newly Unearthed Interview (link)

From ”Relationship Anarchy is not about Sex or Polyamory“: Relationship anarchy doesn’t have to include sex at all, and sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t have to include romance at all, and sometimes it doesn’t. What it does have to include, as a practice that is legitimately different from polyamory and other forms of consensual nonmonogamy, is a politics that actively resists relationship hierarchy as a coercive structure reflective of our culture’s value system. That value system includes amatonormativity, compulsory sexuality, heteronormativity, the sexualization and romanticization of touch/affection/emotional connection (for the purpose of reinforcing hetero-patriarchy via homophobia and on the basis of the sexualized inequality between males and females), individualism of the neoliberal sensibility, and above all, capitalism.

Aromanticism – Moses Sumney (music album)

Notes from reading Sylvia Wynter (medium post) – helpful for contextualizing connections between colonialism, modern sexuality, and antiblack humanism

Jean M. Hodges –  Being Black and Ace 

Danyi – “You’re Such a Waste”: Too Attractive to be Asexual

Amy Ashenden – Asexual Model Yasmin Benoit on Asexuality Stereotypes 

Sherronda J Brown – How The Colonial History of Hypersexualization Obscures the Possibility of Black Asexuality

Patricia Hill Collins – Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New RacismGays: Guardians of the Gates, An Interview with Malidoma Somé 

Yaya Toure- Black Gender Variance and Self Naming 

Shana Collins- The Splendor of Gender Nonconformity in Africa

James Padilioni Jr – Cosmological Queerness Across the Yoruba Diaspora

Manase Chiweshe – Beyond Binary Definitions of Gender

Hortense Spillers – Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe 

Oyeronke Oyewumi – The Invention of Women

Gloria Wekker – The Politics of Passion

C Riley Snorton – Black On Both Sides 

Ifi Amadiume – Male Daughters, Female Husbands

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