Content warning: brief reference to sexual trauma
Some years ago I discovered something about myself which made a lot of sense. This was the fact that I am asexual. I spent many years thinking I must be lesbian. The reason for this is that I had a sexual encounter with a man when I was 16 which was so unpleasant that it caused trauma. Men, to my mind, were icky and women seemed less icky. By this logic I decided that I must be gay. I had a few sexual experiences with women and also found them highly unpleasant but I didn’t know there were any other options. The three sexualities I knew were gay, straight and bi and I needed to fit into one of those. The gay ‘box’ was the one which most closely aligned with my feelings. Sexual activity with women was unpleasant but nowhere near as unpleasant as sexual activity with men, ergo I must be gay.
I kept the view that I was gay for many years, even though it still didn’t quite work. A few years ago I came across the asexual option for sexuality and it made sense. I have almost no libido and do not view people in sexual terms. My idea of attraction is aesthetic attraction. I like people based on looking at their face and clothes. I don’t understand the concept of being physically sexually attracted to anyone. I am afraid of sex and avoid sexual contact at all costs. I also have some sensory issues around sexual contact. Saliva utterly grosses me out so I cannot imaging finding any joy in kissing.
I now identify as part of the Asexual – or ‘Ace’ community and I feel very comfortable with this. I learn more about the Ace community as time goes on. I know know I am probably ‘grey sexual’ or ‘Demi sexual’ as I have a small amount of sexual interest. I also know that the ‘A’ in the acronym ‘LGBTQIA+ stands for asexual (not ally as some people think). Aces are one of the least visible of the groups that make up the LGBTQIA+ community. One of the issues is that people assume that Aces are against sex for everyone and that we are prudish. In my experience this is not the case. I for one am very sex positive and not judgemental of others for enjoying consensual sexual activity. It’s just that I don’t want to do any of it myself!
One issue for Aces is that we are often confused with people who have experienced trauma and that this has somehow impacted on our sex drive. Of course many Aces have experienced trauma – trauma is sadly a common experience – but asexuality is a valid sexuality option, and a person does not need to have experienced trauma in order to be asexual. Likewise asexuality is not – or should not be – a pathology. Just as being gay or lesbian – or transgender for that matter – is not an affliction, being asexual is also not an affliction. It is just a different – and equally valid – kind of sexuality.
Aces often have other LGBTQIA+ identities including various kinds of gender diversity and polyamory. They are also often neurodivergent – like many other LGBTQIA+ folks. One thing which I have come up against in the past is people assuming that ALL autistic people are asexual. That idea is also found in other disability communities. It is in fact wrong. While many autistic people are Ace not autistic people are. I think that view comes from the flawed idea that being Asexual is like being a child and that autistic – or other Disabled- people are eternal children. This is highly insulting to bother autistic and other Disabled people and to Asexual people as well. I work in a corporate environment and most of my colleagues have partners and children. I do not and this sometimes makes me fell like I inhabit a different world to my colleagues and that I am somehow less ‘adult’ than them. This is not true but it is a pervasive attitude. (Although none of my colleagues has ever acted in a way that promotes this view- it is my own perception based on attitudes more broadly.)
Asexual people actually do sometimes have partners and children. Just like gay people may have had some heterosexual encounters and some straight people may have had some homosexual encounters, so too do asexual people sometimes have sexual encounters. We are in relationships too – monogamous or polyamorous. Not all romantic relationships are sexual relationships. The stereotypes about how an asexual person – or anyone – engages in relationships is unhelpful as all relationships are different.
I am very proud to be an asexual and non-binary person. I love my Queer identities and my autistic and ADHD and other identities too. I am proud to be myself and I wish that sense of pride to my peers. And I don’t need a relationship, sex or kids to be an adult!