It has taken years for me to realise that I am asexual, and the more I live under that label, the more complex it seems. Initially, I had that rush I think a lot of people have when realizing that they’re queer: “Yes! I know who I am now, and better still, there’s a community around me who feel the same.” But as I’ve continued to grow into my asexuality, I’ve begun to see tears in the queer umbrella, letting the rain fall through.
Just the other day in the pub, I was absentmindedly eavesdropping on the conversations around me when I heard asexuality being discussed. I felt my stomach drop. It’s not that I don’t want to discuss it or hear it spoken about; more often than not however, it ends up being exhausting. In this case, it was someone questioning if ace people were even queer at all. Being ace is fundamentally queer because you’re bucking centuries-long expectations of how to live – whether you want to or not. And the longer I’ve understood this about myself, the more queer I have felt. We’re rewriting the rules of what it means to be human. Think about it: how much of society is defined by sexuality? We are surrounded by questions about sex from childhood. Eventually, we are given ‘the talk’ and whatever sex-ed our schools manage to provide. Yet, the idea that I might not be allosexual (sexually attracted to other people) never occurred to me; I never heard asexuality mentioned at school. This is the more negative side of things: I may have spoken to a friend about asexuality now and then, but I wasn’t given the language to articulate how I felt until much later.
I started coming out as ace to my friends about a year ago. As empowering as this initially was, it hasn’t all been positive. Most people have been completely great about it, but I have had some really strange questions that people would never even think of asking an allosexual person. This is a pro tip for anyone looking to be a good ally: don’t ask us any questions you wouldn’t like to be asked yourself!
As much as I want to say I love being ace, I can’t. It’s a long road to self-acceptance, and I’m definitely only part of the way there. Asexuality is so different to what people often assume about it. I haven’t taken a vow of celibacy, I’m not some twitter incel; I’m just trying to live my life in the way that works for me.
Pride is coming up (May 14th, Exeter queers: be there!) I really want to get out there and celebrate, but I’m having to make difficult choices about which parts of my identity I reveal to the public. I’m lucky to have the friends I have – and they make me feel safe and valid – but the wider sphere isn’t always so kind. Nevertheless, I think I will fly my ace flag high. While I’m exhausted, I’m not going to stop living how I want. I am determined to prove that it is valid to be ace; and more importantly, prove that it is possible to be ace and happy.
If you want to read up on asexuality, these are some starting points:
- Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex. This is a collection of really fantastic essays by scholar Angela Chen about asexuality that draw on direct interviews with many different ace people.
- “Being not straight” JaidenAnimations. Jaiden has recently come out as aroace in her most recent video. She’s a storytime animator on YouTube, so this is pitched at a lower age range than Angela Chen’s book, but it’s a useful entryway into understanding both asexuality and aromanticism.
- AVEN – this is the website for the Ace visibility and education network. The site is a goldmine of information for ace people and people trying to learn more about asexuality.
- Yasmin Benoit is an ace activist and model. She’s one of the most prominent figures in ace activism at the moment. She exposes anti-Black racism from within the ace community as she unfortunately has to deal with this frequently.
I’ve debated writing this article for a while. I toyed with the idea of publishing under my own name, but for now anon will have to be the recipient of the intrusive and ignorant questions asexuality tends to prompt. Sorry anon: you’ve had a lot on your shoulders over the years.
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