Britain’s first openly asexual election candidate George Norman has made a call to Parliament to include asexuality in equality laws, insisting that people shouldn’t be surprised that there is still “a lot of prejudice”.
In an interview with York Vision, the 20-year-old second year history student who is standing in the Fishergate ward in the upcoming council elections, says that he doesn’t feel Parliament has “a view” on his sexuality and he doesn’t want more generations of young people who identify as asexual to “feel alone”.
Research into asexuality, which describes individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction, estimates that around 1 in 100 Britons are asexual.
Asked how he first understood his sexuality, George says: “I first knew I wasn’t quite the same as everyone else a long old time ago. That was a very isolating and challenging experience, because not being able to put a name and a concept to your sexuality is difficult.
“I think, in a sense, it means you can’t really ‘understand’ your sexuality. But actively understanding and being able to use the word asexual, which happened just over a year ago, was very refreshing and positive. I could finally articulate how I’d been feeling all those years.
“York is a fantastic place to be asexual, so there can be some great, positive responses. But, equally, asexuality is poorly understood, so there is some negativity.”
George is standing for the Labour Party in the election, which is due to be contested on 7 May. He is believed to be the first openly asexual candidate to stand in any election in the UK.
Asked about the importance of being an open asexual, he says: “We live in a world that doesn’t educate or inform our young people that it is perfectly ok to not want sex, if that is how you feel. And therefore it’s crucial that asexual people make themselves visible, so that young people who do identify as asexual, or who might, don’t feel alone.
“I don’t think there’s many asexual people who didn’t feel isolated or unable to properly express themselves at some point. I don’t want too many more generations to go through that.”
Asked why no-one else is as open about being asexual in politics, he says: “I think firstly it’s an age thing. Most people who are openly asexual are young (because people have only been using the word asexual for just over a decade), and most politicians are old.
“But politics is also primarily about presentation, and considering the negative image that still surrounds asexuals, it’s hardly surprising that no-one really wants to take the risk of being branded emotionless or cold. But I’m hopeful for the future!”
A 2012 study by researcher Gordon Hodson found that asexual people can experience prejudice even more than lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
The reason for this is that many people view asexuality as “alien” and cannot comprehend how somebody cannot experience sexual attraction.
George says: “There is still a lot of prejudice. To be honest, people have only been using the word “asexual” for just over a decade, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that people aren’t as informed as they could do. But that shouldn’t make us complacent.
“Education comes first, in my mind, so I think we need a strong commitment to include asexuality in Labour’s plans for comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education. So much prejudice comes from misinformation or ignorance. But after that, looking to the long term, I do think we need to start including asexuals in equality law.”
Asked about what else parliament can do, he says: “I think the main problem is that parliament doesn’t view asexuality. It just doesn’t think it needs to concern itself with us. It needs to start noticing that one per cent of their electorate is asexual, and that they cannot just ignore us.
“I’m not sure if it’s politics itself, but we certainly insist that our politicians are over-sexualised, macho parodies of what modern people are really like. I’m not advocating that we take all sex out of politics (it’s a hugely important thing for many people), but I do think we’ve got to be inclusive, and we’ve got to have politicians that reflect society.
“Most politicians are straight (there’s only 18 openly LGBTQ MPs). That does mean that most LGBTQ politicians do tend to have their orientation or gender emphasised, and they can often be reduced to just that. It is important to be out, but this reduction is wrong.
“I am proudly asexual, but I’m also a living wage campaigner, a passionate believer in our environment, and a strong advocate for workers’ rights.”
In the interview, George tells me that his mother has always been passionate about him being interested in democracy to the point where they would go down to the polling station together “long before” he was able to vote.
He also showers praise on to “communities”, describing them as a “vehicle for positive change”. “Labour has promised a strong vision for York if we get voted in on May 7th,” George says.
“Perhaps most importantly for students, we’ve promised to work with landlords to make sure private rented homes meet decent standards. For non-student residents, we’ll tackle congestion, work to keep up with housing demand, and continue our strong record on pushing for the living wage across the city.”
You can get information on all candidates standing in all wards for the council elections from the City of York Council website.