April 6 marks the inaugural International Asexuality Day — a day focused on advocacy, celebration, education and solidarity. With a lack of visibility worldwide, the asexual (ace) community aims to bring awareness to this emerging identity.

Aces make up an estimated 1% of the population, but those numbers are likely higher among college students, including those at Purdue. Making ace experiences visible promotes inclusion, representation and belonging across campus.

So how do we support the ace community? I chose to listen, and now I wish to share the messages aces have for all of us, whether you experience sexual attraction or not.

1. Aces challenge us to deconstruct our conflated definitions of attraction. Aces parse the differences between aesthetic attraction (attraction to someone’s appearance), sensual attraction (desire to have affectionate physical contact with someone), romantic attraction (desire to be romantic with someone) and sexual attraction (desire to have sexual contact with someone), forcing us to complicate our own identities.

2. Aces widen our perspectives of what constitutes a romantic relationship. If you remove sex from romantic relationships, what’s left? Some might answer friendship, but aces say partnership is more complex. Reducing romantic relationships to the mere act of sex is to dismiss romance altogether.

3. Aces liberate us from the pressures to conform to labels. Although some aces are sex-averse, many have sex. These aces challenge us to open our minds to the incongruence of our behaviors and identities. Following rigid modes of behavior and judging ourselves and others for deviating from our labels causes distress, a barrier to self-acceptance.

On Tuesday, let’s work together to make asexuality visible by having nuanced conversations about sex, attraction, relationships and labels. You may also want to buy your ace friend a piece of cake — they’ll know what it means.

— Krista Robbins, a third-year graduate student in the College of Education

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