After completing this unit, you will be able to:
- Describe how medical and mental health professionals who are uninformed about asexuality and aromanticism may provide inappropriate care to ace and aro people.
- Identify specific difficulties ace and aro people may encounter when seeking care.
Uninformed medical and mental health professionals
Many medical and mental health professionals still lack an understanding of the asexual and aromantic spectrums, and major psychological texts often ignore asexuality, label experiences similar to asexuality as disordered, and disregard aromanticism entirely. As a result, professionals may not know how to appropriately provide care to ace and aro people, and they may unintentionally invalidate a person’s identity. In some cases, ace and aro people can be diagnosed with a mental or physical illness in an attempt to explain their lack of sexual or romantic attraction.
Invalidation and conversion therapy
Medical professionals may refuse to accept a patient’s ace or aro identity because they believe some attributable cause may be underlying their asexuality or aromanticism. Whether it be hormone therapy, mental health, medications, or past trauma, professionals may refuse to accept a person’s ace or aro identity as valid. Health professionals may target these potential reasons with the intention of “curing” someone’s asexuality or aromanticism; this can be incredibly harmful to the patient and might cause the professional to inadequately address actual issues that person may have.
Illnesses and medications impacting sex drive
Reduced sex drive can be a side effect of certain medications and is sometimes considered a symptom of various mental illnesses. Doctors who are uninformed about asexuality may mistake it for a symptom or side effect. This can result in inappropriate care, such as misdiagnosing an illness where none exists or refusing to prescribe certain medications.
Hormone therapy and sex drive
Medically induced changes in hormones can alter a person’s sex drive and experience with sexual attraction. For trans ace people who are undergoing hormone therapy, any accompanying changes in sex drive can feel deeply invalidating. Some ace people may avoid hormone therapy out of fear that it will increase their sex drive or change their experience of sexuality, and some may experience significant anxiety when starting hormone therapy because of this. Those who identify as ace after a decrease in sex drive or sexual attraction due to hormone therapy may not find validation in their newfound ace identity, as others may believe this attributable cause undermines their identity.
Recovery from sexual trauma
Some ace people have a history of being a victim of sexual assault or rape, and in some cases, a person’s ace identity can be brought on by past sexual trauma. Mental health care professionals may attempt to change an ace person back to their previous sexual identity through therapy, which can be deeply harmful and invalidating.