Ok, so just to clarify, I don’t think that this is something we, the asexual community, actually do. However, I’ve not seen anyone saying how we can stop it happening. I thought it might be worth a quick mention, though I don’t know how many people actually read this blog.
I’m sure all of the asexuals who may be reading this know that we’re trying to get the new version of the DSM, the psychiatrist’s handbook, to be more asexual-friendly, especially in the wording of Hyposexual Desire Disorder. This is a really good project, and I wish those involved the best of luck. It is very important that a normal, healthy asexual can’t be diagnosed and stigmatised with a mental illness just for being who they are. However, it’s worth considering our motives and the language we use while doing this. You might want to read through this post, and those it links to, about autism distancing itself from mental illness. The context for asexuality is very different, since asexuality doesn’t imply any lack or difference in functioning, an asexual can be completely mentally healthy, and if the DSM decides that something is wrong with that state of being, then the DSM is incorrect.
However, consider for just a few seconds the situation we appear to be in. Mental illnesses are stigmatised, those who have mental illnesses, whom society should be protecting, encouraging, are instead minimised and excluded. The solution, to those on the outskirts of mental illness, are to protest that they’re not part of the category. If these people win their fights, it just encourages the view that mental illness is shameful and dehumanising, and there is no way you could possibly live with it.
So asexuality isn’t a mental illness. But as we point that out, we can try to avoid perpetuating the cycles of prejudice against the genuinely mentally ill*.
We don’t say “We’re not mentally ill because we’re not like THEM.”
We talk about the original reasons for HSDD (as far as I’m aware, many of the best ones are American health-insurance-system related), and why these are questionable, and need to be reconsidered, given the rise of the asexual community. We ask why exactly it is that lack of sexual attraction can’t be considered normal.
We talk about the use of the stigma of mental illness to control undesirable groups. We talk about the way homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness, we look outside our community to issues like how the DSM stigmatises fetishes (and, yes, this is exactly what ACH has been doing brilliantly). And, most importantly, we discuss how it’s wrong that classing a socially undesirable group as mentally ill can be an effective weapon against them, can completely invalidate their existence.
*Important note: Throughout this post, I’m thinking in terms of what we say in wider society, the conversations we have with each other, what we may say to the media, that sort of sphere. If you’re sitting in a boardroom with the people who decide DSM policy, then you don’t start with “The entire current system is fundamentally flawed.” You play the game, which may involve not challenging professional prejudices, and I’m completely behind that.
Important note II: This entire post was written before all the stuff about Flibanserin hit the blogs. It is absolutely nothing to do with all of that, which is a very different interaction between asexuality and mental health, and one on which I’m still organising my thoughts.