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Yasmin Benoit: This is what asexual looks like

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Yasmin Benoit is an alternative model, blogger and actress from Great Britain and currently one of the main faces of the asexual community world-wide. Early in 2019 she initiated a spontaneous social-media campaign #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike challenging stereotypes about asexuality and thanks to her activism asexuality is gaining greater visibility in media and in the LGBTQ+ community.

 

What‘s the story behind the This Is What Asexual Looks Like hashtag campaign?

I became a contributor to a website called Qwear Fashion and I wanted to write an article dispelling the myth that there's an asexual way to look or dress. I decided to title the article 'This Is What Asexual Looks Like,' and I thought it'd be a fun idea to make it a hashtag and give asexual people the opportunity to represent ourselves, without having to rely on the media. I didn't know whether anyone would actually care to use it though, so I was really surprised when it started trending on Twitter, especially as I didn't have a Twitter account at the time! Someone even made a @ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike Instagram page! 

Did you ever imagine you’d become the face of asexual community?

Never. If I had known that it would turn into something so big, I would have mentioned it sooner! I've known I was asexual for most of my life, and I've had a social media following for years now, but I didn't publicly come out as asexual because I didn't think anyone would care. I'm not a trained public speaker. I was never really part of an LGBT+ scene. I'm quite provocative in my style and approach. Plus, I'm an ethnic minority. I wouldn't have thought that anyone would want me to be the face of their community. But I think it's important to show the diversity of asexual people, and I'm happy to keep lending my voice alongside other activists.

What’s your experience as an ace with media and the LGBTQ+ community?

Since I've started this activism journey, my experience within the LGBTQ+ community has been largely positive. I have met a variety of non-asexual people in the community who have welcomed me into their spaces as a representative, and given me a platform to raise awareness. I have had more mixed experiences when it comes to media platforms. I was in a documentary which ended up representing asexuality in a way I didn't agree with. Afterwards, I did another documentary with a different channel, and found that I was the only person in the documentary who was cut out of the televised version, which was disappointing as I was the only person of colour in the documentary. I know that I'm not the kind of asexual person that parts of the media want to focus on, but at the same time, some of the media is attracted to the shock value of me being asexual and a lingerie model. 

What can asexual inclusion bring to LGBTQ+ events and spaces, which are usually heavily focused at the L and G parts?

Asexual inclusion brings a new perspective to LGBTQ+ events and spaces, because asexual people have a unique experience of queer identity and sexuality. If you're having a conversation about sexuality without including asexuality, then you're missing half of the conversation. Asexual input encourages people to think about LGBTQ+ identity in a way that isn't centred around sex. Plus, the diversity of those within the LGBTQ+ community is what makes it special. It should be a welcoming place for those who don't fit the heteronormative box, and it simply doesn't fit that description if certain groups are ignored. After all, how can the community be represented by a rainbow, if it only favours a few colours in a certain type of lighting?

From the very start, ace community has been global due to its strong internet presence. Yet most of the activism seems to be coming from the U.S.  What’s your experience with the European part of the community? Have you come across any interesting European projects or activities?

Most of my experience is within the UK, specifically the London scene, because I live close to London. A lot of board members for the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) are based in the UK, so that contributes a lot to our presence here. We have a UK Asexuality Conference that took place in London last year and will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland this year. I don't know much about what's going on outside of the UK or the US, though, so it'll be great to learn more about Prague's asexual community!

You’ll be representing aces at London Pride and Prague Pride this summer. What are your plans for the future?

It's difficult to know what the future holds - opportunities seem to appear out of nowhere, things I never expected to be able to do. But I can say that I'm speaking again at Reading Pride this year, my local festival. I'm working on an exciting campaign with Budweiser for London Pride, which will bring asexuality to the forefront in a way that has never been done before. I'm also working on a radio series with BBC about asexuality, and I'm hoping to do more to make asexuality more visible in LGBT+ spaces, as well as for the general public.

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