I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Pride parade. I wasn’t afraid of protestors or getting lost in Portsmouth where brick was worn down by my sneakers and the salt of New Hampshire water. On that day rust brick was painted rainbow. People dressed in vibrant colors, hugging new friends that became family within a few words.
I sat on the sidelines. Desaturated in black, white, gray, and purple. The colors of the asexual flag.
I had heard other asexual people were attending, but this was an event of hundreds within the LGBTQIA+ community that flooded the streets. They overflowed palms, spilling onto land while the few asexuals clung to the breakers.
There were videos of acephobia at Pride parades, the cold shoulder, language lit by low heat burners, always saying “you don’t belong” with silence. Don’t acknowledge their presence. Don’t acknowledge their identity. Don’t acknowledge their correctional rape. Don’t acknowledge their denial of healthcare, or adoption, or everything the LGBTQIA+ community hungers for too. Don’t say asexual out loud, because that would mean validation.
The program shook in my hand as I stared at the acronym, LGBTQA; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and ally. Already so many identities lost in translation, but ally had become a slap to my face. My cheeks were purple with the bruise of “ally.” Allies. Allies. Allies. Even during the speeches, they never said it. Asexual.
When one speaker listed, more hope stung my chest, nonbinary, genderfluid, and I waited. But there it was again. Ally. How many of the people here said, “I belong, I’m an ally! I know lots of gay people!” Some of them don’t take the colors. They sit and listen, know when to be silent and when to use their privilege to advocate. But the ones at Pride wear rainbows in symbols of support and rip them from their bodies the next day. They don’t bleed the colors.
The only booth that mentioned my orientation by name was a church with a small graph that listed “know your flag.” And there they were, my flag listed the word Asexual bold for those who looked the other way. I took a rainbow flag from them, visited twice, lingered there like a seagull waiting for a flock, for others with the same hunger.
But I carried a smile that strained ink. If I just drank the weight of that word in its frequency I would fall into the sea just a few blocks away. My friends placed hands on my shoulders, both wearing the rainbows of the gay community they belonged to with empathetic, “I know.” Neither of them were asexual, but they knew how it hurt. No excuses, no apologies, only exhaustion.
It’s exhaustion from lifting and scraping the bottom of the barrel from the outside; it is where barnacles and clams nest, invisible. I am not silent with the metal tools in my hand. I eat them raw and consume what little I can scrounge. I want to devour the word Ally like I consume mussels and clams. I want to heat water with rage, rip open who they are and sink my teeth into what they take from asexual people.
I picked at mussels with my fork in a restaurant when it ended, silent because I wondered how many allies slipped inside. They wear rainbows in symbols of support and rip them from their bodies the next day, wash the brine away. They don’t bleed the colors.
I’ve learned that anger is much stronger than placid silence. People believe the ocean to be safe until the tide swallows them whole and smashes their bodies against the breakers. When they say ally, I scream asexual, yell my lungs raw until the alveoli pop inside my body. I wonder when those allies open me with a scalpel if they will unleash a tidal wave, or a hurricane.
Shannon O. Sawyer is a graduate from the New Hampshire Institute of Art with her BFA in Creative Writing. She has edited the 2015 and 2016 edition of Ayris Magazine, has works published in Cartoons Underground, The Fem, and Quail Bell Magazine. She is currently a scriptwriter for the audio drama podcast, Jim Robbie and the Wanderers and works as an intern for the Cambridge Writing Workshop. In her spare time she enjoys drawing, watching cartoons, being an angry asexual, and screaming at heteronormative books in her local book stores.