Life is confusing, all of it. It's just a mess of decisions followed by thunderstorms of bliss, or earthquakes of regret, or some foggy middle ground of some other violent weather metaphor. Not to say it isn't beautiful, but it is definitely confusing when you're discovering who you are and trying to fit that into the rest of the world around you. I guess that's growing up, though.
I'm asexual. I wasn't open about that until a few months ago, and if I'm being honest, I'm still not completely vocal about it. I wear a black ring on my right middle finger to represent my asexuality, but that's mostly just to help me with my own personal identity. As for the people around me, when they ask about my ring, I usually just tell them it gives me magic powers, because as sad as that may be, it's usually easier to lie. Telling someone you're asexual isn't easy. Most people don't know what it means, and even though they don't mean to be offensive, they can ask some very inappropriate questions about it. It shouldn't be so hard, but that's why I'm writing this - as an attempt to spread awareness and move the conversation forward, because nobody should be afraid of being themselves.
When I was in middle school surrounded by budding sexualities flowering around me, I struggled to relate. People would talk about sex and bodies and I just didn't get it. I couldn't wrap my head around what all the fuss was about. Why would somebody want to look at someone's butt? It's a butt? You know what those are for, right?
I suppose now would be where I describe what asexuality is for those who don't know. It's very simple. It's just someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction. Just as with sexuality, it branches off into many subcategories, but all you need to know for Asexuality 101 is that it is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction. Some asexuals still have sex, some don't, some enjoy sex, some don't. Asexuals can still have romantic feelings, they can still be in relationships, they just don't experience sexual attraction. Plain and simple.
So where was I? ... I was talking about eighth grade or something? Yeah, I was in eighth grade and hella confused. My friends and I would sit at lunch and they would talk about girls in ways I couldn't understand. Like, I understood what they were talking about, I knew what sex was, but I couldn't for the life of me understand why they thought sex was interesting or appealing. It just sounded uncomfortable and unnecessary and in no way like a pleasant time. So at a certain point I brought that up. I said that these things didn't interest me. Big mistake. Do not tell immature pubescent boys that you don't think about having sex with girls. I was immediately bombarded with homophobic slurs, and took note to never bring it up again.
That moment stuck with me. Maybe they were right. If I didn't want to sleep with girls, maybe I was gay? I was young, and didn't know about asexuality, as many people don't, so I gravitated to their words. For about a month or so I believed I was gay. I wasn't attracted to boys, but I was naive and confused. Various friends and family members suggested it, and I was young and impressionable. How was I supposed to know I was asexual, if I'd never even heard of the term?
Thankfully, I grew up in the Internet age. I found my answer somewhere buried in the interwebs while I was trying to figure out where my feelings were and where I belonged. It was such a relief. I didn't feel so confused as I read through pages of blog posts that I could relate to. I didn't feel broken anymore. I didn't feel like their was something wrong with me that made me unable to feel what the people around me felt. I felt normal. I felt comfortable. I felt comfortable with myself. There was a pride in it, in telling myself I was asexual. I wanted to tell everyone.
Big mistake again. The term :asexual" was met with laughter and questions that I couldn't answer yet, as I was still new to the term myself, and wasn't ready to accurately explain it. I was dismissed. Asexuality didn't hold any meaning to the people around me, so I caved and let it go. I dropped the subject, and would keep quiet about my asexuality for the next four years as I went through high school.
Sometime after graduating high school, when I was free to stay up all night on Netflix in my basement, I stumbled over a documentary titled, (A)sexual. It was refreshing. It brought me back to the place I was when I was initially introduced to the term. It highlighted something I'd long abandoned. Asexuality was real. There was even a community around it. I was introduced to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which introduced me to so many people who shared their stories and feelings in ways I never thought I'd find. I wasn't alone. I learned about the colors, the various asexual orientations, "cake," and the ring I now wear on my middle finger. For the first time I felt accepted as an asexual. I felt understood.
There's still a problem, though. You shouldn't have to go to a website to feel safe. It shouldn't be a half-decade long quest to learn a term to describe yourself. The LGBTQIA+ community is moving forward everyday, but there's always room to grow. Topics like asexuality still need to be addressed. People still need to be educated. I look back and it's so distressing to think I wasted so much time trying to find out who I am, simply because there isn't any knowledge on a simple word. It shouldn't be easier to lie about my ring. It should be as easy as saying, "I'm asexual," and people knowing what that means. This is me taking a step to maybe give someone the piece of mind I didn't have when I was fourteen.
Dear asexuals, you are not alone. Dear allies, we need to keep this conversation going. Nobody should be confused - not when it's so easy to teach each other. Thanks to anyone taking the time to read this. We all may be different, but we're all human, and the more time we take to understand one another, the better we'll be for it.
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