Looking back at the 10 Year Anniversary of the Asexual Flag!

Asexual Pride Flag – Pride Basics

A few days ago, on June 30th the asexual flag hit it’s 10 year anniversary. It was made by community polling and design scouring then more rounds of discussion on AVEN. Not by, on the website in a really collaborative way. You can see a more complete history collected by Asexuality Archive which comes into more detail about why the flag is the way it is.

You also my or my not know each stripe was given a meaning.

  • Black:  Asexuality
  • Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality
  • *White: Non-asexual partners and allies
  • Purple: Community

*Over the past at least two years people have said, ‘hey we are no longer mostly on AVEN and our direction isn’t so ally focused maybe we should change the white’s meaning.’ Common suggestions include romantic variation, to other white means the sum of all colors so the white stripe should reference some other diversity within. Which would help tie it to the aro flag more, and the trans’ white stripe.

With that preface, I want to talk about where the purple came from. Which is actually a really cool story I have never heard before in my 7-8 years of being in the community.

Before 2010, ace symbols included shades of grey gradient. AVEN’s logo is a prism for that reason. The demisexual’s flag is also reference a prism. But, I never knew why purple was added into the mix. Never even thought of it.

The story goes purple was a 2001 addition. Specially choosing the amethyst crystal shade for it’s relationship to the Greek (or French Poet 1528 – 1578) story that mentions a nymph named Amethyst (or Amethystas). In it, Dionysus was hitting on her and she wasn’t into it so Artemis helped protect the nymph by turning her into white quartz. Dionysus then showed he made a mistake and poured wine over the amethyst stone, staining it purple.

Here’s some art from a different version of the story, where Dio was less hitting on her, and more accidentally on purpose angry with her, risking a mortals life via threat of tiger. It ends with Dio crying wine in remorse turning the stone purple.

image

As you can see above a white to purple gradient appears. Whatever the original version of the story the heart of it is: Artemis saved someone from harm and the person who caused the harm realized their grave mistake. 

The dating of the story is debating because it’s thought in Greek/Roman times, wine goblets were carved out of Amethyst to protect royalty from getting too drunk and making fools of themselves in the same way Dionysus had before them. 

Which not only makes my pagan heart happy to know forever now know the ace shade of purple has Artemis meaning, but also how that shade of purple meant that people were reminded to ‘not make the mistakes of the past and make fools of ourselves that harm people who aren’t interested.’ 

Which in a strange way makes me like that the pesky white stripe could be an ode to allies (ace or not) protecting aces. Because no matter where the story came from isn’t it such a timeless, thought out, over arching connection that goes back far more than just the 10 years of the asexual flag itself?

Asexuality history goes back so much further than just that flag. The easiest I know of is from a translated Sappho poem.

There’s so much even recent ace history that has been saved for us thanks to aces, thanks to projects like The Wayback Machine, thanks to how threads work, how google works. I know it’s technology, but it can be pretty magical if you have a curiosity to learn. It’s a gift we mustn’t ever lose to a click bait nature of social media today.

As Sappho also said, “Someone, I tell you, in another time will remember us.”

Ace Day History Through My Eyes

Hi! My name is Rose and in 2013 I founded the FuckYeahAsexual blog. Two years later, The Asexuality Blog and I created Ace Day!
It’s a cheerful, digital event that focuses on celebration of self and the whole asexual spectrum.
Some day in April 2015, I was asked to help with Ace Day. There was some raised concern about its proximity to 2015’s Blackout Day (a tumblr event of selfies) and Trans Day of Visibility both of which probably did have an influence The Asexuality’s Blog’s (TAB) desire to make an event for aces. Personally I was just asked thing? And I was like wooo thing! You see, everyone on tumblr was trying to make new things to celebrate and find a way to have a moment. Twitter still does this, but tumblr doesn’t anymore really. Anyways, Ace Day wasn’t themed off Blackout Day, but I can’t deny the repeated word usage between Ace Visibility Day and TDoV. A solution to which I pretty such said, ‘Ace Day works better anyways. Let’s go with that instead’. The event was also never meant to be a selfie only event. Sure they were totally encouraged, and were popular way to celebrate the day in 2015. (Tumblr doesn’t do selfies a lot anymore, even though lgbtq selfies are now a weekly Twitter thing, but I digress.)
It’s important to note, if TAB and I had to make a choice and were torn between us on something I’d make my point but deferred to her since it was her idea first. (This didn’t happen on anything important until later.)
The date of Ace Day was an issue from the start. And continues to be an issue to this day. In 2015, largely aphobes, but also some good people very early on were roughly like “Hey, this is so close to other stuff it’s getting distracting. Let’s move it.” We both agreed that time.
So I ran a poll with the most common suggestions of new days. It was a strawpoll so people on tumblr, twitter, and elsewhere could take part. 5200+ people voted, 2100~ people picked ‘May the 8th. (May The Ace)’. It’s the only time it was put up to a clear, correct, and multicommunity wide vote.
In 2015, I wrote a lot about why the asexual community deserved a pride focused day in the first place. Pointed out there shouldn’t be restrictions to when, where, and how pride is shown. That some ace events should be reserved for us, instead of actively working on allo awareness that day. I also made it clear on which day I thought was best (I wanted a front half of the year day away from other pride events and I loved the word play of “May the ace be proud”. Also pointed out that people did not want aces to celebrate at all so no matter what we did or what day we picked there would be a pushback. (Which isn’t an ace specific problem either.)
During the following months, TAB and I, decided to put an Art Book together because so many people drew things specifically for the 2015’s Ace Day. It had also been first time I remember anything ace focused trending on Tumblr. TAB did the legwork of buying our Creative Aces domain, and I contacted all the artists, formatted, published what turned into the first ever asexual art book, What You See. It released in October 2015 during Asexual Awareness Week as a throwback to everyone’s celebrations in May.
TAB around this time, after getting more criticism largely about the date, tells me she wants to move it to November. I told her that was silly given she had agreed with general consensus of everyone, and extra silly seeing as the art book was already done and mentions the celebration earlier that year. But in the end, she wanted to move it to November. I don’t have the message anymore but it was clear she was run down with people still trying to pick a new day and she thought people would allow the ace community “international cake day”. Yet, that caused its own problems being so close to the American Thanksgiving and some people not liking the further associations with cake memes. (Which is totally unfair.) I basically told her something like “okay, do what you want. November is really bad for me, I won’t be able to participate much at all.”
Ace Day personally went pretty dormant after that. It didn’t trend, but that wasn’t the importance or goal of the day anyways. Any really fond memories with other dates are wonderful, just not a history I have to share with you. To me it felt like how someone celebrates International Something-You-Like Day. You remember it only days before, or even the day of, and you cheer for a bit then move on.
5 years later, its now early May 2020. An active aro ace on twitter tweets me saying “May 8th Ace Day?” and AVEN cheers them on. So I basically reply “Awesome! My favorite day for it! Here’s all the fun things I did in 2015 with the “May the ace” slogans, the call for “No pride restrictions”, and mentioned the card suit selfies. And that joy further sparks wide participation. There’s whole threads I wrote about what that original date meant to me, and the now 5 year old history I was personally there for.
If you never saw The Asexuality Blog running, it’s heartbreaking to say TAB is gone. Has been for a bit now. It broke my heart when she vanished, and so when people came to me on their own, like “Hey the 8th?” I thought if anyone is in charge of this thing TAB and I did, it’s me. I’m the only one left. To make an overly dramatic metaphor it was like our baby was now abandoned and I decided to take care of it the way I knew how. By returning to the heart and origin of the Ace Day. It was heartfelt, and a historical touch point of aces of 5 years ago to aces now.
Things went pretty off the rails shortly after again. Because there’s a history of undermining the community works of tumblr aces. Things are willfully misrepresented, out right ignored, or deliberately underminded. Worse to me is when aces do it to each other.
For an aged example, it happened when AVEN broke a 4 month radio silence earlier in 2015 to roughly say “Eh ignore those other aces, you can share our A.” A statement that did nothing since days later, GLADD released an apology to the asexual, aromantic, and agender community and followed through with remembering a-spec inclusion that reshaped media representation for years. Point being? Similar is happening again.
I felt as if Tumblr aces were being sold out for hypothetical future allosexual acceptance of us, when Ace Day was always meant to be by us and for us. I think that’s why it trended on Tumblr in 2015, and trended on Twitter in 2020. It never needed media attraction. Was never about allosexuals doing something that day. It was about self love, and love of the whole asexual spectrum.
If you really want a deep dive, you can view the blog’s history on Ace Day here: fuckyeahasexual.tumblr.com/tagged/aceday or use the archive feature and sort by date here: fuckyeahasexual.tumblr.com/archive.
Yeah, those are both tumblr links. And I will never apologize for that. Because “tumblr aces” were the ones who had articles written about how they were piecing together historically lost ace history, the ones who made GLADD show up big time, had Big 5 books published staring the very same “tumblr aces.”
Activists there get belittled at every turn. Making fun and shunning people from tumblr as a whole has always been about attacking the ones most vulnerable in a fight about respectability politics. It’s targets are largely the trans community and really anyone who breaks a binary.
I think a lot these days about a line from a TAB Ace Day Post in 2015. It read: “We can all be infinitely visible” and got choked up when I first saw it again 5 years later. Nearly just another line, another post, that would have been lost to history forever if not for tumblr’s reblog style of blogging. The days after this years Ace Day was a floodlight on of how easy history is forgotten if no one looks in places that are new to them. How eagerly context is stripped away to replace it with whatever someone else wants.
I often think about all of the other activists that said it was too hard, unsafe, financially, or just emotionally unfeasible to continue. So they become quiet. There are wonderfully clever and effective aces who are activists that refuse to touch the community because of subtweeting nature of things. I want the community to be safer, I want it to love itself.
On the blog three of us are disabled and the amount of “Oh, do you need help to get more attention?” ever since we’ve spoken more about being disabled blew my mind. I’ve always leaned towards online activism (another dismissed and mocked tactic) because it’s more sustainable for me, and encouraged people to do the same for them.
Ace Day wasn’t ever about seeking allo attention like it’s going to bring our One True and Only source of liberation. It’s goal was to help teach yourself and be an example for aces around you now how to grow your own self love and celebrate the differences in even the seemingly the same so aces may have a stronger future.