No, 14 was not “too young to know” | asexuality

Whenever I talk about coming out at 14, there’s always a common theme in responses, and I’ve seen others have this too – surely 14 is too young to know you’re asexual?

When people say this, what they’re referring to is the idea that you shouldn’t “be sexual” at 14, you shouldn’t be having those sorts of ideas or relationships at that age. This stems from multiple misunderstandings.

The first of these misunderstandings is something that comes through a lot in our society when we talk about changing how we teach sex ed, and I believe it stems from the general taboo of sex in our society – the idea that young people aren’t already learning about sex at that age or that they aren’t already on their way to forming such relationships. We know that this simply isn’t true.

Our school halls are filled with innuendos, elbow nudges and rating others out of ten. Our society is fundamentally built on relationships, on finding our “other half” (newsflash, you are already whole), on one-night stands and pulling in clubs. We call babies ‘ladies’ men’ or say they’ll ‘get all the boys’. Sex and attraction, at the very least aesthetic, is normalised from day one – and not only that, but we grow up without high quality sex education to actually comprehend it.

I never had crushes as a kid. I didn’t pine after the boy in the playground that everyone else did, the classic football lad with blue eyes. I didn’t understand why so many of the girls spent time looking at pictures of Zac Efron and taking quizzes about which random celebrity boy they’d end up with. Eventually I forced myself to believe I was gay, and then when I realised I didn’t like girls either, I thought I was broken. There is more to sexual attraction than simple lust – although that plays a part too.

And another misunderstanding here is that you have to have sex, or even have had a romantic relationship, before you can decide you’re asexual. This is fundamentally untrue – firstly, this feeds the idea that all asexuals don’t have sex, and more than that, we don’t ever expect straight people to have had sex to “confirm” their sexuality, to identify as straight before they hit the age of consent.

And so, I think I was perfectly within my rights to know at 14. I had people say it wouldn’t stick – whether that be due to my age, or just because of the age-old “you haven’t met the right person yet” that comes with saying you’re asexual at almost any age – but it has.

But I think something I want to stress is that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had ended up being wrong. There is nothing wrong with using a label that you believe fits you, and then finding that it doesn’t.

Saying all of this, though, it’s important that I recognise my simple privilege in realising who I was so young, even if I get a lot of judgement around it. I talked in my recent “reintroduction to my coming out story” about discovering the term on Tumblr – and I know many examples of people who also experienced this, and I don’t doubt that this continues – and although it may be shifting to Twitter and Instagram now too in this age of infographics and carrds, it shouldn’t be the job of social media to educate.

Young people should be aware of the wide spectrum of sexuality younger. That’s not pushing an ideology on them, it’s simply informing them. When we teach sex ed, we can’t talk about LGBTQIA+ identities as if no-one in that class could be part of the community any longer, we can’t imply that it’s something out of reach.

And although it’s still not pushed enough, we do teach young people it’s okay for them not to have sex until they’re ready – but we don’t teach that it’s something they may never want.

Why I (sort of) miss my walking stick | disability

In May 2017, I started using a walking stick – on the day of my GCSE biology exam to be exact, and I was so nervous about what people would say. It’s not exactly seen as normal for a 16 year old to be using a cane, is it? But I had very little choice; I couldn’t hold myself up and the amount of pain I was in wasn’t worth it compared to the slight embarrassment I felt when I first started using it.

Using a walking stick as a teenager is really difficult, and I can’t sugarcoat that. Elderly people glare at you because they think you’re faking; people make comments as you walk past. A lad imitated my legs collapsing as he walked past me once, and I’ve never felt so self-conscious. My condition that was once invisible became public property to discuss and question and laugh at. A boy from a younger year once shouted after me asking if I’d just come back from a war, which was not only humiliating, but extremely offensive to veterans.

It got easier with time. I became more comfortable with going out; it took longer for me to feel okay when I was just with my friends instead of my mum, purely from a protection perspective (although my friends are amazing, and so supportive). I got to a point where I just rolled my eyes when someone made comments, and I empowered myself through having photos taken with it.

This was taken in Swansea by my best friend Caitlin because I walked past this wall every day walking to work experience and I happened to match it.

I stopped using it in January 2019, when I had my pain rehabilitation programme and strengthened my legs. And obviously, I was, and generally am, really happy about that – people don’t look at me, they don’t comment. But that causes other issues for me, and I sometimes miss it – not in that I want to use it, but the fact it has made my disability invisible again.

If people knock me, it hurts for at least four days, and this happens a lot because I can’t walk very fast. I don’t feel like I can ask for a seat on trains like I used to, so I’ve stood up most times than not since January on shorter journeys and the tube in London. It feels like I’m constantly dismissed and seen as able-bodied, but I’m still working on building up my strength so my legs still collapse under me and I can’t walk very far in one go.

This isn’t meant to be a sob story. This is more about the differences between being invisibly disabled and having a visible invisible disability (which is different to a visible disability, which is more about visible symptoms, I believe). I know I am privileged to be able to walk around without people making such comments, I’m more likely to be given a job, and I am less likely to find that places are inaccessible to me. There is definite privilege in the stage I am now at with my disability, and it’s quite undeniable.

But I can’t deny that I sometimes miss the ease that it could sometimes bring in people accepting that there is actually something wrong with me, even if that was often grudging. Now, I feel like I have to prove myself far more, and it’s difficult in a different way.

Whether your disabilities are visible or not, there will always be a fight. Disabled people still aren’t equal in so many areas, and often aren’t even included in lists of marginalised people. So it’s interesting for me to look at the different versions of the fight that I’ve experienced, and will continue to experience.

How does having dyspraxia affect me? | disability

“Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), is a disorder that affects your movement and co-ordination.”NHS website

Of all my conditions, I feel like dyspraxia (or DCD) is the one which is the one of the least known about – especially when people assume it’s the same as dyslexia, and they’re often grouped together.

I was officially diagnosed with dyspraxia in 2017, two years after the idea was first bought up by my Occupational Therapist at the time. The waiting time for an assessment was a long time, but we also had issues where I turned 16 and parts of the medical system change you to adult services at 16 and others at 18 – and that’s a whole other blog post. My family and I spent my childhood believing that I was just extremely clumsy and bad at sports. I couldn’t (and still somewhat struggle to) do my hair and I never managed to learn to ride a bike.

There’s been a lot of discussions on social media in recent times discussing that disabled children become disabled adults, and for me that’s really important as I turned 18 last year and I’m going to university in the autumn where I’m going to have to be completely independent. Just because I’m 18 doesn’t mean my coordination has suddenly improved and I can do all the random things that I previously couldn’t. There’s things that I come up against both daily and randomly like not being able to use knives properly or grating cheese, and if strangers ask me for directions they’re probably not going to get there.

I directed an elderly couple to somewhere very local a couple of months ago and 2 days later realised I missed out the most important road on the route. Fun. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter!

I literally bump into anything and everything – in the corridors at school I used to bump into at least one person every time I moved classroom. But there’s things that are less obvious that I struggle with too, like being over-sensitive to light and moving my eyes and attention from one thing to another like the whiteboard at school to my laptop or a textbook. My short-term memory is also non-existent and I interrupt people a lot which I always feel awful for, but I’m not being rude – I just struggle with the perception of when to speak and following all the people in a conversation’s voices.

It is difficult to deal with a lot of the issues my dyspraxia brings because it makes me feel so behind other people my age and I often feel guilty about some of the issues it can cause for me. It’s definitely not talked about enough in older teens/young adults and is perceived as something only really seen in kids – when you’re someone older with it you’re just a nuisance, or unfortunately far too often assumed to be drunk. I’ve just invested in these badges in an attempt to combat that part.

If you’d like to learn more about dyspraxia, you can on the Dyspraxia Foundation or Dyspraxia UK websites. I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into the condition if it wasn’t really on your radar, or if you didn’t realise it was different to dyslexia!