I logged onto Facebook yesterday and discovered it was National Coming Out Day. How exciting!
A lot of my queer friends wrote beautiful and bold posts about their experiences and their identities. Some were funny, some were heart-wrenching. All of them were brave, and I salute each and every one of them.
But I wasn't exactly sure what I should do.
I'm asexual. If you want to get real technical, I'm an asexual bi-romantic. I'll fall for anyone – but I'm probably not gonna sleep with you. At least, that's what I'd say if I were single.
It might be a surprise to some people, to know that I'm asexual and married to a wonderful spouse who most definitively is not. My husband is very much a sexual person. I... am not. We make it work, because in the end, marriage is about compromise.
Thinking of him was what stopped me from making a Facebook post, though.
Because I thought about his friends and family seeing that declaration, and immediately becoming concerned. I know my family has expressed some worry in the past. We've mostly moved past it now, but I think it's still a difficult concept for anyone to grasp. What exactly is asexuality?
I'm not here to speak for every asexual out there. There's a whole sliding scale spectrum of being Ace, and however you choose to express it, I support you. Some people are completely sex-repulsed. Some people simply prefer to stimulate themselves. For me, it's more like, sex just... doesn't occur to me.
I know that it should. The media tells me it should, over and over. In billboards and posters and on buses, in movies, music, TV shows – Game of Thrones is so very odd to me. I don't understand that level of attraction, that level of need. For me, sex is like ice cream. Sure, it's delicious and good, but I'm not gonna die if I don't have ice cream. (In fact, I'm honestly more likely to reach for ice cream than some sexual activity.)
Like I said, my husband and I have made it work. We discovered it together, and it hasn't affected our relationship in the slightest. I'm far from ashamed of my sexuality, and he has never made me feel like I should be. (He's pretty great.) But I'm worried about what the impact would be if I were to make such a blatant statement in front of our family and friends.
Would they pity him? Judge me? These are the people I love and care about, who love and care about me, so I know in the logical part of my mind that they wouldn't. But I do feel like there's so much about asexuality that's misunderstood that some people out there might just think I'm broken in some way. That our marriage won't last.
For the record, we do sleep together. Maybe not as often as he would like, but it's about meeting each other in the middle. But honestly, what goes on between my husband and myself is between us – and announcing my asexuality feels like inviting people to come and peer through our bedroom windows.
There's a lot of debate in the LGBTQA+ world, about what that A should stand for. Some people argue that Allies deserve a place, because if they are supportive, they should be welcomed. And I agree with that. But others argue that erasing Asexuality from the acronym is akin to erasing it from existence. And there's a lot of asexual people out there.
According to a 2004 study conducted by Anthony F. Bogaert, as much as 1% of the world's population was asexual. Now, as we've seen in homosexuality and bisexuality and pansexuality, that number has probably increased in the years since. But it's hard to find information on it, because how do you talk about a lack of something? How does someone know whether they're asexual or simply not "in the mood?"
For me, it was hearing other stories from the Ace population that cemented my identity for me. Hearing other people use the ice cream analogy above really clicked with me. It was like my whole life suddenly made sense to me, in a way that had never been clear before. I was in a closet without knowing it, and someone had turned on the light.
Am I ready to step out? I guess this article is proof that I am. Because I am not broken. I know that for certain. There are other people out there who identify just like I do, and people who fall across the Ace spectrum in vast and beautiful ways. My best friend is asexual, too. She has to deal with her family and friends thinking that she "just hasn't met the right guy or girl," but she knows for sure. Sex just isn't for her. I admire her, because at her age, I was still figuring it out.
The media certainly isn't helpful. There's an episode of House MD, where a patient and his girlfriend comes into the free clinic and tells House that they're both asexual. House then sets out to prove that he isn't. I thought, for one shining moment, that he would be wrong. That we would have a plotline, even a C plotline, where asexuality was normalized. No such luck. The patient in question had some type of brain disease, and his girlfriend was faking the whole time to protect his feelings.
I've heard tell that Riverdale has an asexual character now, and that people have really latched onto it. I'm hopeful that it's a realistic portrayal, and that it gives other Aces a chance to step out of their closets proudly, heads held high. But I'm worried, too. Because we still don't really know how to talk about this. There are still people out there who think that we're just waiting for the right person, or that we're sick, or that simply, we're naive. There are people out there who believe that Aces will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a sex-active person. But they're wrong. They're so wrong. I point them to my marriage as an example.
I took a class once, called Diverse Sexualities, and we talked a lot about sexual identity. The professor said something that will always stick with me. "Sexual identity is as much a choice as anything else," though I'm paraphrasing here. His point was, we get to decide what labels we put on ourselves. There's a power in that. I have chosen to label myself as asexual. It gives me something concrete and tangible to hold onto. There's all those people out there who think "why do we even need labels anyway?" But to them I say, for me. I need this label. It reminds me that I'm not alone. It gives me hope.