Page published on 16th January 2024
Page last modified on 1st February 2024


On 29 November 2023, IP Out held a hybrid event, entitled “Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation”, which explored asexuality, including discrimination faced by asexual people (or ‘Aces’). The speaker was Sarah Cosgriff (she/they), who is an asexual activist working in science communication and education.

Sarah gave a lively, informative and interactive presentation that included both information and lived experience. Read on for an outline of her talk and a selection of useful tips and resources.



So what is asexuality? People who are asexual (or ‘ace’) experience little to no sexual attraction and/or sexual desire. Many people talk about an Ace spectrum, encompassing people who are demisexual or grey-asexual:

Demisexual: Someone who only experiences sexual attraction if there is a strong emotional connection.

Grey-ace (grey-asexual): A broad definition that encompasses people who identify with asexuality but feel like this isn’t quite the correct word for them. There are many possible definitions and identities, eg someone who experiences sexual attraction but only rarely, or of low intensity, or only in specific circumstances.

A person who is aromantic experiences little to no romantic attraction and/or romantic desire. This is considered its own spectrum and some people are both aro and ace, while some are one or the other.

People may identify with one or more sexual or romantic orientations at the same time, eg biromantic and heterosexual. The Split Attraction Model can be a helpful tool to understand different types of attraction, eg romantic, sexual, physical, emotional, aesthetic.

The asexual umbrella includes people with a wide range of attitudes towards sex. Some will feel repulsed by the idea of having sex and/or talking about sex; others will be averse; others will be neutral; and still others may have sex but without the attraction.



Communities such as Aces in STEM and events such as International Asexuality Day and Ace Week are vital for raising awareness and enabling the sharing of experiences. It’s about making sense of your experience, recognising that there’s nothing wrong with you and finding a community. For Sarah, it was hearing about and being able to relate to many of the experiences of asexual people that was so helpful. Prior to this, she had struggled to relate to experiences of sexual attraction that she had read – they sounded made up or exaggerated to her.



Asexuality is frequently medicalised and treated as something that is wrong and that can be cured. According to the National LGBT Survey (2018), Ace people are the most likely group to be offered conversion therapy in this country. Assumptions and stereotypes about people’s attitudes to sex based on their age, gender and ethnicity are also prevalent.



According to the National LGBT Survey (2018), Ace people are the least likely group to be out, compared with any other sexual orientation, and the law provides no specific protection against discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against discrimination in the workplace, and wider society, particularly in respect of certain characteristics such as age, disability and sexual orientation. However, sexual orientation is defined as a person’s sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex, opposite sex or either sex. No mention is made of experiencing no sexual attraction.



A lack of awareness can result in Aces having to repeatedly explain their sexual orientation and deal with inappropriate questions.



The LGBTQ+ community can be an accepting and belonging space, but can also be rejecting of Aces, with comments such as ‘your issues are not the same as gay people’s issues’. For Sarah, the LGBTQ+ community is important for Aces as there is so much commonality in terms of experience and political goals.



Become aware of any stereotypes or prejudices you might hold, or assumptions you make, which could be dehumanizing for the other.

  • Don’t assume that people are either straight, gay, or bi.
  • Don’t assume that all people experience sexual attraction to other people, or that all people pursue love or romance, particularly by means of a monogamous, long-term relationship.

Think of intersectionality. Eg consider yourself in a whole variety of contexts (gender, age, race, background, culture, sexual orientation, etc) and how this affects your experiences.

Don’t have expectations of others based on your own experiences.

Talk about asexuality – mention it in casual conversation – help to educate others.

In the workplace:

Could your workplace policy add –“or experiences no sexual attraction” ?

Data collection in your workplace – is there an Ace category ?

If you invite ‘partners’ to social events, could you amend the invitation to expand this term, eg ‘someone important to you’ ?




If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions, please do get in touch with us by commenting below or via email to [email protected] or [email protected].

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