When I was around 17 or 18, I realised my friends were all sexually curious and experimenting in one way or another. I remember at the time feeling a sort of panic, like realising I missed the boat. I had this thought of “Wait, you guys think and fantasise about this stuff??” I also remember crying myself to sleep that night because I felt like an outcast among my own friends. I suddenly felt like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be in my sexual development, I was way behind everyone else. Sex and sexual activities never crossed my mind and suddenly I realised that perhaps they should have by now and that I should get started on all of this ASAP.
In the 2 or 3 years following that, life went on pretty much as usual for me. I didn’t have any crushes,no romantic partner, nothing. It wasn’t something I craved for or thought about much, telling myself it was better to focus on school for now. One day, the guy sitting next to me in my astrophysics class asked me out. If I’m being honest, it was a bit awkward, and I felt like I was caught on the spot. I didn’t have feelings for this guy and didn’t find him attractive either, but I thought this might be an opportunity to “fix” myself and finally date someone, experience romance and sexuality, etc. I thought if I got to know him, maybe I’d develop feelings. So we went on a date, and the whole thing felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for me. He was doing these things like holding my hand, and looking at me with a smile when I talked, and tucking unruly hair strands behind my ear (I have curly hair, all the strands are unruly let’s be honest). He drove me back to my place and kissed me in front of his car. That was my first kiss. And again, I felt sort of disconnected from it. Really, if I could describe the whole night it would be this: I felt like I was reenacting a movie. I felt like I was playing a role, just doing what I thought people on dates did. It felt fake. But I thought… maybe this is how it’s supposed to be. Everyone must just be faking it in some way. Now that I think about it, it sounds ridiculous. But I didn’t know any better at that time. We “dated” for a few days after that. More kissing, more hand holding, more and more of me feeling awkward and uncomfortable. So much that I started actively avoiding him at school. And then I couldn’t take it anymore and I ended it with the classic “it’s not you it’s me.” But really, that’s the only way I could put it. I was the problem.
Questioning, part 1
I think it was shortly after this that I stumbled upon the word “asexuality”. Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low interest in or desire for sexual activity. Of course it’s a whole spectrum, and asexual people have a lot of different experiences depending on where they identify in that spectrum. Along asexuality, I also learned the term“aromantic”. An aromantic person is someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others. I remember telling myself “This is it! This is me!! This is what I feel. It’s normal.” I felt so good about it, so relieved. I finally had a place where I belonged, words to explain what I felt. When I talked about it to friends though, about how asexuality and being aromantic explained my previous terrible attempt at dating and how it explained so much about me, I was told that perhaps it could also just be that this guy was way too intense and everything moved too fast and of course that’s why I didn’t like it. In a way, they were right. That guy was too intense and things did move way too fast. But as a new little baby asexual, that’s the last thing I needed to hear. I needed them to be on board with this. I needed them to tell me “yes, this makes so much sense, this is who you are!” Instead I got more confusion and self doubt. I felt so sad to realise that I might’ve jumped the gun,and maybe I just needed to try dating more. In a way, I felt broken again.
After that, there was another guy. We met at a party and he seemed quite into me, but again, he wasn’t my type. And again, I thought maybe this time if I worked on it a little,some type of attraction could develop there. Maybe love would show up. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. We met a few times after that, but it didn’t lead to anything. We lived in different cities and I was busy with university. We texted occasionally, and he still seemed interested, but I wasn’t. So I made things clear, but he didn’t take it well and got a bit nasty with his words, saying I led him on and such. That was the end of it.
Questioning, part 2
I didn’t date again after that. Didn’t develop more crushes. Didn’t get turned on by anyone. Didn’t feel horny. To be honest, I don’t remember a single time in my life where I felt turned on or horny. I couldn’t even describe what it feels like. So throughout university, I came more to terms with my asexuality. Aromantic, I still wasn’t sure of. I thought may be I just needed to meet the right guy, the right person. But still, every time friends and family pointed out guys to me saying “isn’t he cute?” I would almost always answer that he wasn’t my type.
I don’t know why, but that never seemed weird to me. At least not until last summer. I suddenly became aware that I always looked at women and thought they were beautiful, and I looked at most guys and either didn’t notice them, or thought “meh”. And then I saw a specific woman one day and thought “daaayum.” I think it was my first ever “dayum, this person looks fine as hell and I can’t stop looking at them” moment. I had a few more moments like this afterwards, such as “woman sitting on the bus that one morning” and “woman sitting next to the window during brunch that one time”.
Having this realisation brought on a whole new wave of questioning for me. Was I a lesbian all this time? Is that why I didn’t have sexual attraction towards men? Was I gay and a sexual?Or gay and demi-sexual (feeling no sexual attraction towards other people unless a strong emotional bond has been established)? For a while, I settled with gay and on the asexual spectrum. I came out as gay to 2 people, one of my best friends, and my sister. From that moment on and until a few weeks ago, I tried to become comfortable with the idea of being gay. What I found difficult is that whenever I looked at a guy that I did happen to find attractive, I felt like it was wrong. Or I would see trans people or non-binary people that I found attractive. And I thought, does that really fit with being gay? I shouldn’t be attracted to these people if I am gay. I was so wrapped up in the idea that I was gay, that I didn’t want to be something else. I didn’t want to start questioning and doubting everything again. I had JUST found something that felt nice. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t quite right, and that’s why I didn’t come out to more people.
A few weeks ago, during my weekly Facetime with my mom, dad and brother, my mom was talking about something along the lines of “When you bring a guy home someday…” and something just clicked in me. It was the one time too many. I’ve been hearing about this for the past 20 something years of my life. About when I would date a boy, get a boyfriend, find a man. And I always went with it, saying things like “I’m not looking for anyone right now” and “It’s not a priority in my life”, which are very true regardless. But this time, I thought it was enough. There was no reason to endure this anymore. I knew my family would be accepting. Or at least I was certain enough of it. It was just a matter of me telling them. But notice the wording. I told my mom “Actually, if I do bring someone home someday, it will probablybe a girl.” I didn’t realise it at the time, but that “probably” ended up making all the difference for me. After hanging up the phone, I thought “I said probably. Not it will be a girl. Just probably.”And so I looked up pansexuality (sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity). And then I looked up if pansexuals could have a preference, the same way bisexuals can have a preference. They can. A lot of them do. And finally, finally, I felt “This is it. This is really it.”
The thing I realised, is that it can be so much more difficult for asexuals to figure out their orientation. Because when you experience sexual attraction, your body is telling you what you prefer, in a way. It’s telling you by being turned “on” and turned “off” by certain people or certain thoughts or experimentation. For asexuals, I feel like there’s often none of that, or at least not to the same degree. It’s just like, my body doesn’t react to men. But it also doesn’t react to women. Or to anyone else. But my brain finds most women attractive, including trans women, and also finds some non-binary people attractive, and some men (including trans-men) attractive. So for me, that’s just it. It’s not a matter of boy or girl or else. If you’re attractive, you’re attractive. If you’re nice, you’re nice. If we get along, we get along. If you fit those criteria, I don’t care about your gender. I don’t care what’s in your pants, cause I want nothing to do with it anyway. So the terms I identify with the most at the moment are “pan-romantic asexual.”
For me, I consider myself to be apart of the LGBTQ+community. However, one thing that surprised me a lot is that there can be a lot of hate towards asexuals in the LGBTQ+ community. I thought if there was one place I would be safe and accepted, it would be there. I was wrong. As it turns out, there are quite a lot of exclusionists in the community. Exclusionists are people who are against the idea of asexual and aromantic people being in the LGBT+ community, creating what is often called“the ace discourse”. In a way, exclusionists try to gate keep the community, deciding who is accepted in and who isn’t. Among the arguments they use, there is the fact that we are only “cishets” looking for attention. Originally, cishet means cisgender, heterosexual and hetero-romantic. In this case, it’s often used as an insult against people on the asexuality spectrum. Other arguments are that we are just angry that we can’t get laid, that we just haven’t hit puberty yet, that we are sexually repressed, that we just haven’t found the right person yet, that we have an hormonal imbalance. Basically the argument is that we’re just straights with problems looking for attention. For demi-sexuals, an argument that is also often used is that “it’s normal to not want to have sex with everyone you see” and that it’s just called “having standards.” But they’re missing the point entirely. It’s not that you’re feeling sexually attracted to someone, but don’t act on it cause you don’t want to. It’s that the sexual attraction isn’t there at all. It’s not something that you keep under control, it’s something that doesn’t exist.
Another argument is that asexuals aren’t oppressed enough to deserve a spot in the community, which makes no sense to me. First of all, we do. From exclusionists themselves, and from everyone else who denies the things we go through. From thinking we’re broken or being told so, to being told we just “haven’t found the right one yet”, to people telling us they’ll “fuck it out of us” to fix us, to being told we’re just straights who can’t enter the community. Second of all, is suffering really a prerequisite to be considered LGBT+? I don’t see the point of it.
A lot of them also assume we’re not LGBT+ because we don’t have to come out to people. But we do. Either to family members, to friends or to romantic partners. Every time we enter a relationship, we have to worry about coming out to them about being asexual, and will they still want us when they know, or will they get angry and say we led them on? In a world that revolves so much around sex, it’s very difficult to find people who don’t want it or are willing to go without it. So much so that I think I would be fine being in an open relationship if my partner absolutely needed sex. It’s something I’ve thought about quite often.
I’ve kept this all for me for a very long time too, but this pride month, I finally feel confident enough, proud enough, to come out, and speak out about asexuality. I think a lot of the hate we get is because of ignorance, and the first step towards eliminating that is speaking up about it and opening a discussion.