For Dr Singh, it was GoDaddy; for Charles, it was Facebook; and for Manuel, it was Instagram — the internet is a common factor in all these stories that helped these women have the conversation about sexual orientation with a small but widespread community.
Social media, as a platform, is a great place for meeting new people, trying new things and finding new places to explore. But on top of that, it is also a haven for people who are looking for acceptance and want to be surrounded by a group that understands them.
In 2014, Dr Pragati Singh took the initiative to help such people, bring them together and form a community. The LGBTQIA+ conversation in India is very hush-hush and thus Dr Singh founded Indian Aces. What was initially started as a closed Facebook group, has now grown into a movement that is a multiple award-winning, and grant-winning, volunteer-led initiative, with both online and offline presence across India.
According to Statista, only two percent of people in India identify as asexuals — an immensely small number for a country with such a dense population. Asexuality is a sexual orientation which is generally defined as the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity. For a country that is obsessed with marriages, accepting, or even understanding, asexuality can be difficult and that is where Dr Singh’s movement helped build a community of acceptance and growth.
Being from a medical background, Dr Singh knew that she wanted to help move the conversation forward but she did not know how. She was introduced to GoDaddy, a web hosting company that helped her build the website from scratch — all on her own — and the rest is history. “The website that runs today, lead by a whole team still uses the original domain from 2014,” she says.
While people from the community, who call themselves the ‘aces’, want a warm and forthcoming welcome, they also do not want to be identified as just an ace, and why should they be?
Another sister initiative of Indian Aces is Humans of Queer, a Pride Month project, that showcases the life stories of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. Bhavesh Arora, a hotelier from Gurugram writes, “I first thought that I was afraid of sex. But after spending hours researching asexuality on the internet, I understood that I was an asexual person…I had earlier thought that I was ‘abnormal’, but after finding the asexual community, I learnt that there were many others like me.”
It is not unusual for people to feel out of place or, as Arora put it, ‘abnormal’ when they find themselves different from the general norm. Last year, BBC interviewed Anahí Charles from Mexico for a story on asexuality and Charles expressed a similar feeling. She said she was “in denial” about not experiencing sexual attraction to anyone. She even went to get herself medically examined to check if something was wrong with her. Facebook came to her rescue and that’s where she first found out about asexuality and realised how much she could relate to it. A year later, she became the admin of an asexual Facebook group in Mexico.
Marisa Manuel from the US is another name that BBC quotes. When she first heard about asexuality in high school, she was misinformed that aces want to be alone whereas she liked being around people.
“Manuel is trying to add to this growing pool of representation. Leading up to International Asexuality Day, she created AceChat, an Instagram account where she regularly shares stories by different people who identify as ace. It’s garnered positive reception, and she keeps hearing from people who want to tell their stories. There are now about 100 people involved,” the BBC article adds.
For Dr Singh, it was GoDaddy; for Charles, it was Facebook; and for Manuel, it was Instagram — the internet is a common factor in all these stories that helped these women have the conversation about sexual orientation with a small but widespread community. Technology has major breakthroughs every single day, but it is also a part of these small victories that probably impact lives every single day.