So someone on AVEN recently asked whether, since identifying as asexual, they'd started feeling more pressure to conform to the asexual "norm." Which is actually a pretty good question, with a lot of different parts to address.
First of all, what's the "normal" asexual? There's the idea of an "average" asexual, the most common type of person who feels comfortable identifying as asexual; and there's the idea of the "poster" asexual, who we use to promote our orientation in media coverage; and the idea of the "stereotypical" asexual, the sort that tends to get paraded in popular media or fiction when mainstream culture at large caricatures us.
I'm certainly not much like the "average" ace, which as far as I can tell seems to be a nonrepulsed hetero- or biromantic with some degree of libido. Granted, that might just be my impression of the majority of posters, and it's been noted that self-identified aromantic posters seem less likely to hang around the site, but let's assume that my subjective impressions and poorly-sampled AVEN polls are right about that. I certainly don't feel much pressure to skew my personal expression of asexuality towards either romantic orientation or libido; I might sometimes feel in the grey area in both, but that I think is more an outgrowth of my natural curiosity than anything. In any case I'm not particularly repulsed, but I heavily suspect that repulsion grows exponentially when an asexual person feels pressured to, themselves, engage in sex and I've never felt that pressure particularly strongly either. Coming to AVEN young helped with that. So let's reject the idea of being pressured into conform to that particular ideal.
What about the poster ace? This one is a bit more nebulous to define. I think for a start I'd go with clear of any hormonal or neurological abnormalities (let's just say able-bodied and -minded in general), youngish adult and not bad-looking (capable of attracting SOs if desired), and totally confident in themselves at all times. The bits about being youngish adult and my looks fit me fine--I"m not some sort of Venus descending from on high to comfort the poor hideous mortals or anything, but I look average bordering on good when I feel like dressing up a bit. But I've never altered myself to conform to that; actually, I started identifying as ace much younger than the "poster" age, back when it would have been easy to dismiss me, and I went through a very militant anti-dressing-up-at-all phase through middle school and early high school. And I identified as ace then, and it was only sinking more comfortably into my status as an out asexual that let me feel more comfortable with performing femininity when I wanted to. No pressure from the community-at-large there. The nondisabled part, though... hoo boy. Let's start with saying that I had a hormonal test done for other reasons and found that my testosterone levels are very high for a woman's, and that I have PCOS. So I don't get to pull the "hormonally totes normal" card, per se, but I do get to point out that PCOS is exceedingly common in women, particularly in my family on my mother's side, and I'm still the only ace woman I know. Anyway, I can't change hormones, and I haven't personally been told to get a hormone check yet... but I suspect it's a matter of time if I start coming out more often in the future.
Then we can go into the fact that I am not neurotypical, and I am known to suffer from depression. That opens up a lovely can of worms from the people who are insistent about finding a reason we're all abnormal this way, even on AVEN. Which, yeah, I have felt pressure about, even if it's largely internal pressure combined with growing anger about the idea that my sexuality isn't seen as valid all on its own as, say, homosexuality or heterosexuality is. I'm not talking about the greater AVEN community telling me we should all be NT here, but there's definitely a part of me which is very uncomfortable with insinuations that asexuality stems from mental illness and/or neuroatypicality, and I think that part definitely reacts to this idea of a "poster asexual." Which again, I'm really not. Confidence, eh. I sometimes use confidence as a weapon to prevent people from challenging my self-identification, and I've come to the conclusion that others probably do the same, no matter what their sexuality. I certainly don't have any evidence to suggest that my identification as asexuality is incorrect.
Let's just finish up with the "stereotypical" asexual, which is the sort you might find in the mass media. This one's usually male and intensely socially awkward, might call himself asexual out of sour grapes, or otherwise has gigantic neon issues surrounding sex and (usually) women. Alternatively the female version of this trope was at some point horribly abused and can be fixed via Healing Sex with her True Love. Most of this is very much not me, but the socially awkward/not totally sane connotations here I think might play a role in the abovementioned asexuality/mental illness problems I have. I don't think there's much pressure in the community to conform to this one, for obvious reasons, but I think that the reaction to it forms a lot of the basis for our trope of the "poster" asexual. I think there is actually some pressure not to conform to this one, if possible.
So I don't feel I've felt much pressure regarding my status in relation to any of these norms, with the minor exception of the "poster" asexual. But then, my deviations from the "norms" are largely not uncommon. I wonder how much more uncomfortable a grey-A or demi might feel in this context, since they have more differences. Or a strongly repulsed asexual who feels concerned about falling into the "severe issues with sex" box in the "stereotypical" norm, or an asexual who was abused or raped and who is still trying to figure out what that means to them, or whatever. I'd like to hear from people on that. Is it easier to talk about things which don't make you "poster children" for the movement if you're concerned about "letting the side down?"