Those who identify with asexuality but find that it doesn’t perfectly capture their experiences have always been an important presence in ace communities. Here are five defining moments in the history of gray-asexuality:
February 8, 2006: Demisexual is coined
In the first link above, you may notice references to ideas of “primary” and “secondary” sexual attraction, which are now considered outdated ideas that don’t accurately capture people’s experiences.
April 12, 2006: Gray-A is coined
On April 12, 2006, AVEN user KSpaz coined the term Gray-A for those represented by the "fuzzy" area of the AVEN triangle, who relate with asexuality but don't feel like it's a perfect fit. As the thread demonstrates, gray-asexual was quickly used as a synonym for the same concept.
If you are interested in learning more about the early history of gray-asexuality, “The development of gray asexuality and demisexuality as identity terms” by Hezekiah is a great place to start.
2011-ish: Asexuality as a spectrum
Around 2011, the phrase asexual spectrum came into use to refer to the wide range of identities that relate to and overlap with asexuality, including demisexual, gray-asexual, and asexual.
Unlike demisexual and gray-asexual, there isn’t a clear point when this phrase was first used. Rather, it was likely a natural shift in the way we used language to describe the diversity in our community.
Around the same time, the word ace began to be popularized as another umbrella term that represents the entire asexual spectrum.
2013-2014: The Gray Wars
In 2013, gatekeeping directed at those who identify as gray-asexual or demisexual became a signficant issue. Comments dismissive of the experiences of gray-ace and demi folks were common, particularly on Tumblr.
However, ace activists at the time worked tirelessly to affirm that gray-aces and demi folks exist and have always belonged in our community. While you might occasionally see echoes of these harmful ideas now, it’s quite rare, and it’s clear that the work that these activists put in was effective.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, Coyote has put together a detailed history of the time.
2019: Ace Week is renamed
Early in ace community history, the word asexual was used as an umbrella term that included those who now identify with other identities on the asexual spectrum. When the first Asexual Awareness Week was held in 2010, this was still the case, but right on the brink of changing as the term asexual spectrum came into use the following year.
When our team took on the organizational role of this important event last year, we reflected on the name Asexual Awareness Week and realized it was no longer truly representing what the week had become. One significant reason for this is that the word asexual no longer adequately represents those in the gray area of the asexual spectrum.
With that in mind, we chose Asexual Awareness Week’s nickname, Ace Week, to be the new official name of the event.