CW: acephobic and transphobic conspiracy theories and tweets
There has been an acephobic conspiracy theory steadily brewing in fascist circles for years now, and it’s gaining popularity alongside the rise of other queerphobic theories and mythologies as Christofascists vie for political control across the Western world. But, like the asexuality spectrum itself, this acephobic conspiracy theory has not been afforded much significance or recognition outside of asexual communities.
When asexual activist and model Yasmin Benoit announced the launch of the Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project in April 2022, she was met with outrage and harassment from a familiar demographic—people who cultivate wild conspiracies about queer communities and the dangers we allegedly pose to society, especially to children. What emerged was what Benoit subsequently called “the beginnings of a worrying transphobic, acephobic conspiracy theory … that Stonewall, which has been accused of pushing a ‘trans agenda’ to make money, has pushed a generation of children into taking puberty blockers.”
This particular conspiracy theory draws a connection between transness and asexuality, with the former allegedly being a cause of the latter. This, they argue, is yet another reason why trans and nonbinary youth should not be allowed access to gender-affirming care. But this rumor was already spreading before the launch of Benoit and Stonewall’s asexual rights research initiative.
“Here’s the theory about a sudden interest in ACE from stonewall,” one person tweeted in October 2021, after Stonewall posted in celebration of Ace Week. “Puberty blockers probably stop sexual development so these kids will never have an orgasm. They’ll be asexual. [There will] be a growing community of asexual trans kids.”
But that wasn’t the beginning of this bizarre theory either. A year before that, London’s now-closed Tavistock Centre was the target of transphobic and acephobic outrage as the UK’s only dedicated youth gender identity clinic. When representatives of Tavistock acknowledged the existence of asexuality during a trial in which the use of puberty blockers was under fire, one person tweeted, “Tavistock [defense] claiming that some people are asexual, to defend giving kids puberty blockers. It’s the blockers that prevent the kid’s sexual development. Because of medication they will never have an orgasm. They create asexual grownups with their own treatment!”
“Twisted, perverted, warped, illogical genderist nonsense,” insisted another person, incensed at the idea that “many adults are happily asexual” and convinced that the mere existence of asexuality being acknowledged was “justification for risk of loss of sexual function as consequence for puberty blockers.”
As early as October 2019—again, during Ace Week—conspiracy theorists accused Stonewall of making children pliable subjects to be “forcibly turned into ‘Aces’” with gender-affirming care. “Kids who take blockers before puberty, then cross sex hormones have a significant risk of being incapable of orgasm / a functional sex life as adults,” one user declared, despite a lack of scientific evidence.
Tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet—all with similar language about puberty blockers, sexual development, and asexuality. Conspiracy theorists on the far right have fostered the dangerous narrative that asexuality is not a legitimate identity, but rather a massive cover-up organized by the left. This asexual pipeline theory goes beyond the myth that gender-affirming care is harmful to children and further asserts that it is part of an insidious, systematic pipeline that intentionally and forcibly turns children into asexual adults, with some extremists folding it into the alleged white genocide plot. To those invested in promoting heterosexuality as the only normal and healthy sexuality, and especially to those invested in maintaining white racial dominance, an asexual existence is an unacceptable one.
Heterosexual performance is a social mandate that requires strict adherence to the gender binary. Conservatives cannot abide by either sexuality or gender norms being broken because their ideology has irrevocably linked the two through a bio-essentialist understanding of sexuality, gender, and assigned sex. Because asexuality is perceived as a failure of the gender binary script in conservative ideology, it follows that those who are deeply entrenched in transphobia would also despise, fear, and mischaracterize asexuality.
We are in an era of growing understanding and acceptance of asexuality. But with more attention also comes more scrutiny. “How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual,” by Rebecca Burgess, recently made the list of permanently banned books in one Missouri school district. Also on the list is “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, which became the most banned book of the 2021-22 school year across the US. Kobabe ended up fighting a lawsuit filed by a former Republican congressional candidate who claimed the memoir—a personal exploration of nonbinary, aromantic, and asexual experience—is obscene. Meanwhile, Christofascists are increasingly targeting platonic and asexual marriages with hopes to ultimately outlaw them.
The asexual pipeline conspiracy theorists not only believe that asexuality is nothing more than a side effect of gender-affirming care, but also that all attempts to make asexuality better understood and improve the life experience of asexual people is a scheme to both normalize the supposed “side effect” and obscure the pipeline from public knowledge. Asexual activism, scholarship, and advocacy are seen as forms of indoctrination. Therefore, information about asexuality and asexual experience must be suppressed.
“‘We’re trying to promote asexuality as a Thing while we’re puberty-blocking and cutting the genitals off children. These things are completely unrelated,’” read one sarcastic tweet in the days following International Asexuality Day last April. Another person wrote, “Stonewall are creating a generation of asexuals through transing them. Kids who will never know an orgasm or any sexual excitement. That’s why they [are] raising the profile of asexuals.”
As asexuality receives more recognition as a queer identity, it also becomes a bigger target, another opportunity for queer antagonism and fearmongering among fascists. It is exceedingly easy for those embedded in transphobic or “gender critical” communities to incorporate acephobic rhetoric and misinformation into their talking points to recruit others into their cult. Because they know so little about asexuality, which they see as a “new” and “trendy” identity, it is a near-blank slate for them to project their deepest anxieties onto and an easy way to draw in others who are also ignorant of the truth about asexuality and asexual existence.
Conservatives use the same language about “hormones,” “sexual (dys)function,” and “protecting children” to rage against the existence of trans, nonbinary, and asexual people, yet they lack any real understanding of what these identities encompass. But that is the nature of conspiracy theories and cultish indoctrination—the truth doesn’t matter, only what people are willing to believe.
The persistent misinformation about gender-affirming care and asexuality that outlines this conspiracy theory is by design. It doesn’t matter that asexuality has nothing to do with sexual function or orgasms, just as it doesn’t matter that gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth is not about “cutting the genitals off children.” All that matters is that all forms of queerness are fair game in the conservative aim to uphold cisheteropatriarchy.
There is a clear and direct link between the currently circulating myth that queer adults are “groomers” and this building panic that asexuality is an invented identity meant to help ease an intentional push of children toward gender-affirming care. Acephobic attitudes, discrimination, and violence are rooted in the same conservative belief system that endangers other queer identities. As this fascist asexual pipeline conspiracy theory continues to spread, those who are committed to queer liberation need to pay close attention, remain vigilant, and be prepared to protect asexual people against it.