BY SHEBATI SENGUPTA ’19
Throughout Mount Holyoke’s history, there have been numerous student organizations which cater to members of the queer community. One of the most recently founded organizations is the Coalition for Asexual and Aromantic Awareness (CFAA). According to Rachel Yousman ’19, a founding member and co-chair, CFAA was founded when students “noticed a gap in the LGBT orgs and community here on campus” for individuals who are on the asexual (“ace”) and/or aromantic (“aro”) spectrums. These spectrums refer to a “facet of sexuality that doesn’t necessarily refer to who you are attracted to, but rather how you feel attraction, if at all,” explained Yousman.
People who identify as asexual may not experience sexual attraction. Aromanticism refers to people who may not experience romantic attraction. In terms of someone’s identity, these two spectrums may intersect. “There are aromantic people who experience sexual attraction, there are asexual people who experience romantic attraction, and there are people that experience neither,” said Mika Stanard ’20.
Last week, CFAA held their first Valentine’s Day event, a self-care night entitled #NOROMO. This event included snacks, nail painting, coloring and a screening of “Brave.” “I mostly just ignore [Valentine’s Day],” Stanard said, “but this year I’m definitely going to go to the event.” Excitement was echoed by other members. “The idea behind this is that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to only be about showing love to a partner, it can be about showing love to yourself and your friends too,” said Yousman.
CFAA was founded following several experiences where members found community among other people with a shared identity. Sarah-Judith Bernstein ’19 remembered a meeting OUTreach had their first year. It was supposed to focus on asexual voices, but all of the speakers canceled. Despite being a first-year student, Berstein said, “I ended up doing most of the talking.”A short time later, Femmepowered advertised a dinner for members of the group who were on the asexual or aromantic spectrums. “They were going to have a dialogue — there was just one problem. The asexual students showed up. The Femmepowered students didn’t. No one from their board came,” said Bernstein. The students who did attend the dinner began talking about their experiences on campus.
CFAA was formed from those weekly dinners and has experienced “unprecedented sustained membership,” according to Yousman. Stanard added that “it’s really nice to have a place to go and just talk. It’s nice to have people who share some of the same experiences.”
In the future, they plan on working “more on the ‘awareness’ part of our name,” said Yousman.
“Not a lot of people know we exist, and there’s a lot of misconceptions about what being ace or aro is and what it means,” said Meghan Arnold ’21, “that can be frustrating.”
“A lot of people really disregard [asexual experiences],” added Caralyn Esser ’21 “I’ve had people tell me that ‘your biological clock will kick in one day.’” Arnold said that the lack of awareness “can make it difficult ... to exist in a world where people [don’t] understand you.”