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Nearly half of asexual people are closeted at work compared to only 18% of other members of the LGBTQ+ community who aren’t out to their colleagues. This data is according to “Ace in the U.K.'', a new report from British LGBTQ+ rights organization Stonewall U.K. and asexual activist Yasmin Benoit, who co-authored the study.
“Ace in the U.K.” uses data from focus groups and interviews, as well as existing research like the U.K. government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey, to compile information about asexual experiences in the workplace, healthcare settings, and in society at large. The report notes that while the 2021 England and Wales Census recorded 28,000 people who identified as asexual (out of a total population of 59.6 million), research suggests that the number might actually be higher, with ace people potentially making up 1% to 2% of the U.K. population.
The report’s analysis of the 2018 National LGBT Survey found that asexual people who do come out at work are less likely to experience positive feedback about their sexuality from their coworkers. According to the survey, only 17.6% of ace people reported receiving positive responses to coming out as asexual, as opposed to 40.8% of all respondents.
A number of people who participated in a focus group for the report noted that being open about their asexuality at work led to inappropriate and invasive questions about their sexuality and sex life. One participant, who works in the entertainment industry, said that after mentioning that they were asexual at an event, they were sexually assaulted by an audience member.
“Actual harassment happened there, and nothing was done about it. Nothing has been done since,” the person said. “That’s why, even in this industry, that I want to be open about who I am. There is genuine fear that this kind of harassment is going to happen to us and there’s no real legislation, or at least it isn’t taken seriously enough that no one actually takes action on it.”
Yasmin Benoit, an asexual activist, has responded to backlash over O, the show’s ace character.
In addition to finding that 49% of asexual people are not out at work, the report also noted that asexual people are less likely to share their sexuality with friends. According to National LGBT Survey data, only one in four (26.1%) asexual people are open about being asexual with their friends, as opposed to 33.1% of all respondents. “Ace in the U.K.’s” analysis also found that in healthcare settings, ace people were around 50% more likely to have never revealed their sexuality.
“The ace community deserves legal recognition. We deserve protection. We deserve acceptance, and we deserve to be heard,” Benoit said in a statement. “[...] This [report] is a much-needed step in understanding what asexuality is, what asexual discrimination looks like, and setting the ball in motion for actually doing something about it. It’s time that the world paid attention.”
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