Words by Abi Scaife
Out of all the letters in LGBTQIA+, the ‘A’ is one of the ones which often gets forgotten. Still a novel concept to many outside the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘asexuality’ – a lack of sexual attraction to others – is perhaps dismissed the most in a world that revolves around sexual attraction.
Yasmin Benoit, 26, activist, heavy metal fan, lingerie model and cake hater, feels very differently. From a young age, she knew she didn’t feel romantic or sexual attraction in the same way her peers did – but it took until her mid-teen years to discover the term ‘asexual’ on the internet... and even longer to decide if it applied to her.
Now? She's partnered with one of the largest LGBT rights charities in the UK and is working tirelessly to make a difference.
Combatting stereotypes from a young age
“I was largely unsuccessful in coming out until I was about 22,” explains Yasmin, who had tried to come out as asexual to family and friends before. “And the only reason people believed me that time was because it was printed in a two-page spread in the Metro newspaper."
Since coming out, Yasmin has worked tirelessly to not only raise awareness of asexuality in mainstream media but also to fight the stereotypes that come along with it.
As a black lingerie model, she already doesn't fit the stereotype of an asexual or aromantic person – something she's acutely aware of.
“The people who are most likely to identify as being asexual in particular … tend to be Gen Z. They tend to be in the UK or the US. They tend to be white,” explains Yasmin.
Even within the LGBTQIA+ community, there are stereotypes about asexual people, though some are a little more lighthearted. “In the ACE community, there's a whole thing about how if you're asexual you must like cake,” laughs Yasmin. “Honestly, the food I like the least is cake. I don't know where that comes from. I don't like cake.”
Ultimately, her decision to come out as AroAce and become an activist had nothing to do with wanting to air her private life on the internet, and all to do with her desire to make a difference in the world.
Becoming an activist to make a change
“It felt hypocritical of me, as someone who had a platform, to complain I wasn't seeing any kind of representation out there that I could relate to,” explains Yasmin, of why she became an activist. “My initial motivation was just to kind of throw a spanner in the works and see what I could contribute. I didn't expect it to become anything bigger than that.”
Once she saw people were interested, she understood why they were interested: because they felt like they needed more voices and they felt like there needed to be more awareness. "That kept motivating me to do it and made me understand just how impactful it can be," she says.
Charity partnerships for a better future
Since coming out as asexual and beginning her activist career, Yasmin has helped to launch the world’s first official International Asexuality Day, which took place on April 6, 2021. In June 2021, Yasmin won the Attitude Pride Award for her activism, making her the first openly asexual-aromantic person to win an LGBTQIA+ award.
Since then, Yasmin has partnered with Stonewall to launch the UK's first-ever asexual rights initiative. The Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project works to research the problem of ACE discrimination in the UK, in the hopes of making this a better, and more accepting world.
Research conducted as part of this initiative will build a picture of ACE communities’ experiences, needs, and priorities for change, with a focus on employment, healthcare, and education. "Our findings will be launched in a report which will provide a clear set of actions for policymakers, companies, and charities to better support ace people," says Stonewall. Find out more about the partnership.