Image credit: AnonMoos
[Note: this article contains mentions of ableism, sexual trauma, possible physical abuse and fractious family relationships. Due to the sensitive nature of issues discussed, the writer has chosen to remain anonymous.]
My ‘discovery’ that I am asexual was oddly complicated. It is a surprisingly difficult matter for me to acknowledge because so much conversation generated from social interaction, media consumption, or familial relationships seem to be focussed on the pursuit of fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships.
When I was first exploring my “queer identity” I thought I was bisexual, and, by the beginning of sixth form, had come out accordingly to my friends. It was only years later that I realised that what I thought was an approximately equal attraction to both my own gender and others was, in fact, an equal ‘un-attraction’ to everyone. Once that dawned on me, it changed my perception of myself and the world around me; I had felt confused previously, isolated in a busy crowd of humans who thought so differently from me. Now, I had an understanding of the estrangement.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that “I’m frigid”, just “waiting for the right one”, simply “repressed”, or, worst of all, the “evident product of sexual trauma”. I am none of those things. I wish people would stop trying to fit my personality into a neat little box which suits their expectations. It is so frustrating to be defined by my sexual uninterest, when I, and so many others, are so much more than our sexual proclivities.
“There is absolutely no need to ask probing questions, to show shock, or to express distinct disapproval when someone seems to be different in such a way.”
I should not be obliged to answer when a relative tactfully asks me if I “bat for the other team” because I had not yet moved in with someone. More absurdly, this conversation took place when I was only in my late teens. I shouldn’t have to hide my queerness from my father just because he would literally and verbally beat me for being so “abnormal”. For someone so uninterested in many other parts of my life, he shows a disproportionate interest in my sex life, repeatedly asking me if I have a partner or at least “someone to fuck”. How is asking that appropriate? How is that matter anyone’s business but my own?
I should not have to put up with condescension, from knowing friends and complete strangers alike, praising me for my perceived focus in getting on with studying and ignoring relationships while insinuating that such a status quo should last just long enough for me to do well, but not long enough that I become that single weirdo in the corner, alone because I am unwanted rather than through choice. It is, incidentally, a choice that I make. The thought of sex repulses me more often than not, and the idea that navigating this life with a partner, any partner, is the absolute default, rather than one of many possibilities, irks me to no end.
What irritates me the most is the entitlement with which most people engage with issues of sex and romance. Everybody has an opinion about singledom which they are keen to share. The truth is, no one is that interested in what you have to say. No one thinks that an asexual person could have any agency, or sanity, to choose to live the way they do.
“Living as an asexual person, in a profoundly sexualised world, is intimidating and frightening beyond imagination.”
To elaborate further on this point, I have been told point-blank by acquaintances that I am essentially a pathetic, desperate person pretending to opt for a life of “celibacy” due to my perceived unattractiveness. Such statements are demeaning and irrelevant. My inclination to find a sexual partner is not related at all to my ability to do so. Furthermore, when the apparent “disconnect” between my appearance and sexual choices becomes evident to some of the people with whom I have interacted, their reaction is to consider me “mentally damaged” or “retarded”. Not only is the language ableist and offensive, it also propagates serious misconceptions about asexuality and aromanticism, to the point where I am genuinely frightened of making any intimation of my sexual identity.
These assumptions shape so much of my life that I often resort to lying about having a “casual relationship” just to get the interrogators off my back. Such interactions are exhausting, and it often takes all of my strength to keep a smile pinned on my face as my interlocutor makes erroneous assumptions about my sexual and romantic identities, assumptions which are both hurtful and unnecessary.
If this piece were meant to have a moral, I suppose all I’d request is for everyone to have little more thoughtfulness in the ways they interact with people. No, it is not abnormal to be single. It is not strange to prefer alternative activities to sex. Most importantly, sexual and romantic uninterest is not always related to past incidents or environment. There is absolutely no need to ask probing questions, to show (disproportionate) shock, or to express distinct disapproval when someone seems to be different in such a way.
Remembering that, and tailoring one’s language to accommodate diversity, is a small action which will have a big impact on the everyday wellbeing of myself and others like me. Living as an asexual person, in a profoundly sexualised world, is intimidating and frightening beyond imagination. I hope this piece has illustrated that reality.