Labeling historic people

This post is part of the July Carnival of Aces. The topic is Asexual History.

XYZ was asexual because they didn’t marry/have children.


A problem with history is that it rarely records (or correctly records) the motivation of an action. It only records the result. We can only speculate why someone declared war on someone, and we can only speculate why someone is single/celibate. There are a lot of reasons that a person may have an “asexual” expression, like politics, religion, closeted homosexuality, lack of time, or simply that they don’t want to. There is no reason it necessarily has to be asexuality.

Sometimes the smallest traces may be blown out of proportion, like calling someone bisexual because they had a best friend of the same sex. You know how the media sometimes say “X must be gay because he was with Y!”. I’m sure you don’t appreciate that, right? Same for historical people. Furthermore, unlike living people, there is absolutely no way for the person to correct us.

AVEN is always big on this “only label yourself” thing, and that includes historical people, too. A lot of reasons people can have an “asexual” expression are also reasons people use to excuse asexuality. Retroactively labelling people as asexual does not help with that.


On the other hand, finding people in history to have displayed characteristics that can be imagined as indicative of asexuality can be a comforting experience and/or a fun topic for debate.

Asexuality is precious rare enough as it is, and having famous historical figures as role models or headcannons can be a nice reminder that asexuality isn’t a new orientation- it’s always been there, even if it hasn’t always been talked about.

In addition, when coming out, it can potentially be useful to have an example or two of famous figures that either openly identify as asexual (such as Tim Gunn from Project Runway), or are known to display ace-ish characteristics (such as Isaac Newton), in order to show that it’s not something you’ve invented on a whim.

In the end, they’re not around any more, there’s no way we’ll ever know for sure, and as long as a debate about Emily Brönte’s sexual orientation doesn’t get out of hand, no-one’s getting hurt from daydreaming about their favourite historical figure sharing their sexual orientation.


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Student, Taiwan, loves music and art in general. Writes poems.

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