Unlike many active ace-spectrum bloggers, I am currently not a formal student or affiliated with any institution of higher learning, but I too was once a college student.
One of the last courses I took was ‘Intro to Gerontology’. Sexuality is part of the lives of old people, and there was an entire lesson dedicated to this. Furthermore, the professor himself was gay and also taught some human sexuality classes.
Now, in the United States, it’s assumed that old people, particularly old women, don’t have sex lives or sexual feelings, so I understand why much of the lesson was about countering this myth. However, I did mind one of the phrases put in big letters in the presentation – ‘All old people are sexual beings’. I minded this so much that I raised my hand, and voiced my objection out loud. I said something like this:
“Excuse me, I’m asexual, so if you say all old people are sexual beings, aren’t you saying that I’m going to become sexual if I grow old?”
This, by the way, is the only time I have outed myself as asexual to a group of strangers offline.
This sparked a bit of discussion among my classmates, though I don’t remember most of the comments clearly. The professor’s response was ‘I need to think about this,’ which I think was the best response he could have made – since he was in the middle of teaching a class, I wouldn’t expect him to change his worldview immediately.
After class, I went to him, and he thanked me for my comment, and I pointed out some asexuality blogs where he could learn more. At the next class, he thanked me publicly, saying that I had given him something to think about.
Most of my classmates said nothing about this, but the ones who did say something mostly had a positive attitude about this. In fact, based on what I heard, my comment about asexuality was one of the most memorable moments of that lesson.
I don’t know if the professor ever changed his lesson on sexuality-of-older-people to reflect asexuality, and I don’t know if this has influenced the way he teaches his human sexuality classes. However, at the very least, all of the 40 or so students in the classroom knew that they had encountered someone who identified as ace, and hopefully, if they ever encounter asexuality again, they will consider to be real thing associated with real people.
It’s often intimidating to speak up, and the cost-benefit analysis can favor remaining silent sometimes. But I think I tend to underestimate the benefit of speaking up, on asexuality and other issues. When I have mustered the courage to speak up in public about an issue I care about in the fact of somebody who takes a different position, I’ve usually been surprised as how many people, publicly or privately, thank me for it.