What being asexual
means to me
written by Caitlin J (she/her)
I am currently in my mid-20s, and I confidently identify as asexual. It's simple to me; I don't feel sexual attraction, and I never have. But my experiences with my identity have been rocky.
I first learned about the term in 2011, when I was in my mid-teens. Having assumed for so long that I was simply a late bloomer, it was an exciting to learn that there was a name for people who didn’t feel sexual attraction to others. I found the term on the internet, and the online communities’ I was in touch with at the time were incredibly positive and open to young people exploring their identities freely. I owe them a lot for opening my eyes to the possibility that it was okay to be different. Growing up in an incredibly sexualized society, that was immensely important to hear. If I hadn't, I might have spent my whole life waiting to feel “normal”.
I decided to tell somebody a year later when we were both 16. I’d researched the nuances of asexuality for a while, and I was confident enough to tell somebody what I’d discovered about myself. My friend’s response left something to be desired. "Guess I'll never be your maid of honour then", she said. She had utterly ignored the explanation of asexuality I've just offered her as a lack of sexual, not romantic, attraction. “But you’re way too young to know for sure. Maybe say that when you’re 50.”
I wasn’t sure why my friend could identify as straight and cis, but I was not allowed to call myself asexual until my life was (optimistically) halfway over. Despite this unfortunate beginning, I continued to tell people I was asexual, but I was always left feeling uncomfortable. As somebody without it, discussions around sexual attraction didn’t interest me that much. What mattered most to me was feeling accepted, and I never felt that way. The responses I got seemed to always try to erase my experiences by telling me I couldn’t know for sure, telling me I’d find the right person, or dismissing me entirely.
I eventually stopped thinking about the entire thing, and I didn’t discuss my identity for a few more years. Rejecting it didn't help me though - I found myself pretending I was like everybody else and feeling gradually more broken when my pretence didn’t live up to reality. Despite the great start I had with asexuality, the negative responses I’d received made me dislike that part of myself.
Now, nearly 10 years later, I know I'm not just a late bloomer, which is incredibly validating. I no longer have the struggle I had as a teenager, constantly questioning whether I was old enough to identify a certain way. I'm also comforted; I wasn't mistaken about my asexuality. Even if I was, I know now that it wouldn’t have been a crime. Mistaken were those people who refused to acknowledge that asexuality exists and is a valid identity, and instead imposed heterosexuality as the norm, insisting I would change my mind when I met the right person. People are capable of change, but that should never be used to invalidate how they identify in the present.
Ultimately, asexuality is just a human experience, but it is also a term that defies society’s standards of heteronormativity. To identify as something outside the norm is to resist common expectations and instead chose to stand up for yourself, even if you tell no-one. To me, asexuality means making a statement of “I exist”, and I’m so grateful that I stumbled on the term online all those years ago.