A few days ago, on June 30th the asexual flag hit it’s 10 year anniversary. Born from a community poll, and then faced many rounds of 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.
Each stripe of the asexual flag was given a meaning.
Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality
*White: Non-asexual partners and allies
*Over the past at least two years people wondered about the white stripe. Said ‘hey we are no longer mostly on AVEN. The collective direction isn’t ally focused anymore. Maybe we should change the white’s meaning.’ Common suggestions include romantic variation. White means the sum of all colors so the white stripe could reference some other diversity within. Which would help tie it to the aro flag more, and the trans’ white stripe. All work without taking anything away.
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. Do you know why purple was added? Never even thought of it before this.
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 flirts with her. She wasn’t into it, and Artemis protects 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 the mortals life via threat of tiger. It ends with Dio crying wine in remorse turning the stone purple.
As you can see above a white to purple gradient appears. Whatever the original version of the story. The heart of it is the same. Artemis saved someone from harm and the person who caused the harm realized their grave mistake.
Later stories tell of wine goblets carved out of Amethyst. Reminding royals would think of Dio’s mistake so they didn’t make their own. Which not only makes my pagan heart happy. To forever now know the ace shade of purple has Artemis meaning. But also how that shade of purple meant don’t harm people who aren’t interested in your advances.
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. One 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 earliest 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.”
Hi! My name is Rose and in 2013 I founded the Fuck Yeah Asexual 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. I celebrate it on May the 8th! We need to back up earlier into 2015 however.
In April 2015 TAB asked to help with Ace Day. There was some raised concern about its proximity to 2015’s Blackout Day and Trans Day of Visibility. Both of which may have an influence The Asexuality’s Blog’s (TAB) desire to make an event for aces. That isn’t uncommon behavior now, or back then.
I was asked “Thing?” And repled “Wooo thing!” You see, everyone on tumblr was trying to make new things to celebrate. Twitter still does this, but tumblr doesn’t anymore really. 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 event. They were encouraged. Even 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.)
If TAB and I had to make a choice, I’d make my point but deferred to her. She was the original lead. The date was an issue from the start. Any dates were. And continues to be an issue to some. In 2015, largely aphobes said “Hey, this is so close to other stuff it’s distracting. ” We both agreed that time.
The democratic solution of voting
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 Ace Day was put up to a clear, correct, and multi-community wide vote.
In 2015, I wrote a lot about why the asexual community deserved a pride focused day in the first place. Said there shouldn’t be restrictions to when, where, and how pride is shown. That an event should be reserved for aces. Instead of actively working on allo awareness that day. I gave my reasons on why I liked May the best. For the word play of “May the ace be proud”. To be in the first half of the year away from Asexual Awareness Week. I also pointed out that people did not want aces to celebrate at all. That no matter what we did, or what day we picked , there would be a pushback. (This isn’t an ace specific problem either. Happens for every trending LGBTQ event.)
In the following months, TAB and I decided to put an Art Book together. So many people drew things specifically for the 2015’s Ace Day. The first time anything ace trended on Tumblr. TAB did the legwork of buying our Creative Aces domain. 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 on May 8th.
Around this time, TAB gained increasing criticism largely about the date, tells me she wants to move it to November. I told her that was silly given since we had a general consensus. Extra silly seeing as the art book was already done. And even more art mentioned the celebration earlier that year. But in the end, she wanted to move it to November.
I don’t have the message anymore, but she was run down. Burnt out by people still trying to pick a new day. She thought people would allow the ace community “International Cake Day”. That caused it’s own problems being too close to American Thanksgiving. Other’s hated the day for further associations with cake memes. (Which is totally unfair.)
All I could tell 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 went pretty dormant after that. Both personally, and as a trend. Allo awareness wasn’t the importance or goal of the day anyways so whoever celebrated still found joy I hope. Any fond memories with other dates are wonderful, just not a history I have to share. To me it started to feel 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 sparks wide participation. There’s whole threads I wrote about what that original date meant to me.
This is old tumblr 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. 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. The only one left. With our baby 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 willfully misrepresented. Out right ignored, or deliberately undermined. Worse for me is when aces do it to each other. This time the 6 months that followed.
For an aged example, in 2015 the ace community was not one group. (If I ever was.) Nothing shows this more than when AVEN broke a 4 month radio silence to say ‘Ignore those aces. We give you permission to have the A.” A statement that did nothing besides hurt people further. 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 Tumblr aces were being sold out. Just for hypothetical future allosexual acceptance. Despite the fact that when Ace Day was always meant to be by aces and for aces. That’s why it trended on Tumblr in 2015, and trended on Twitter in 2020. It never needed outside media attention. Was never about allosexuals doing something that day. It was about self love, and love of the whole asexual spectrum.
This history never hidden. Some chose not to look at tumblr aces. Which is why I will never apologize for tumblr links. The bloggers piecing together lost ace history. The ones who made GLADD show up big time, had Big 5 books published staring the very same “tumblr aces.”
Making fun and shunning people from tumblr has always been about attacking the most vulnerable. It’s a fight about respectability politics. It’s targets are largely the trans community and really anyone who breaks a binary.
Thinking a lot these days about a line from a TAB Ace Day Post in 2015.
“We can all be infinitely visible.” – Ace Day 2015
I choked up seeing it again. Nearly just another lost line. Another post that nearly forgotten if not for tumblr’s reblog style. The days after 2020’s Ace Day were a floodlight. History easily rewritten. Eagerly removed from context. Replaced it with whatever someone else wants.
I often think about all of the other activists that said it was too hard. Unsafe, financially unviable to show up, or just emotionally unfeasible to continue. So they become quiet. There are wonderfully clever and effective 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.
It’s endless. Maybe I know why TAB left. Three mods of fyeah are disabled. 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 as a writer. Not because I was incapable of doing “bigger things”.
Ace Day wasn’t ever about seeking allo attention. That was neer 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, how to grow your own self love. And celebrate the differences in even the seemingly the same so aces may have a stronger future. Together.
I don’t know what the new year holds, I just hope it’s brighter for everyone.