Today I attended the 2020 UK Asexuality Conference, and I felt a sense of belonging that I’ve never really felt, or not for a while.
About a year ago, I stopped talking about being asexual as much as I used to on the internet. I didn’t necessarily stop completely, and it’s still in my bios – but I just saw so much aphobia and exclusion and gatekeeping on Twitter that I started to feel like I had to protect myself.
I’m a complete stereotype, being perfectly honest – I had no idea what asexuality was until I found out about the ace spectrum on Tumblr. I read the definition and something just clicked. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that though, because otherwise I would have felt broken for so much longer. Talk about sexuality wasn’t seen on many other platforms back then. It took me a little while to decide to take on the label, but I came out at 14 to my mum.
I had a conversation with my mum in the car one day where I mentioned a friend who had come out as asexual (which was true, it wasn’t even a cover up) to test the waters, and she didn’t understand it. We had a lot of chats about the misconceptions of hormone imbalances and such. She is the most liberal parent you could come across, but it took me a while to feel like she would accept it.
The first person I came out to was a therapist. It wasn’t someone I ended up seeing regularly – it was to fill the gap before I got into CAMHS – but he was teasing me about one of my friends. By that point, my need to tell someone, anyone, was so big, that I just blurted it out. I felt like a bubble had been burst.
Eventually, after many failed attempts of going and sitting in my mum’s bedroom and willing the words to come out, we were in the car again – most of my mum and I’s landmark conversations and deep debates happen on long car journeys – and she simply asked me how I identify.
I identified as demisexual back then. I came out publicly on Instagram on Coming Out Day 2015, and most people didn’t care, but I got some backlash that I was just straight. I can’t remember when I moved to asexual, but it’s comfortable and natural these days.
By age 16, I was entirely casual about my sexuality – I don’t feel like I have to tell anyone and I wouldn’t say I bring it up without context, but most people know and quite a few of my teachers back at school would discuss it with me if it came up.
The intersection between asexuality and disability fascinates me. When I started identifying as asexual, I was in the starting blocks of finding out that I was autistic and chronically ill. Those worlds often collide when I’m accessing healthcare, and doubt can often be cast over my sexuality.
A couple of my most prominent memories from the time I spent in an adolescent mental health unit are related to my asexuality, and I often wonder if that’s because it was the same year that I was having to come out repeatedly anyway. When I was admitted, it was the first time during a physical check-up that I was asked about being sexually active, and I can clear as day remember my laugh and saying I was asexual sliding so easily off my tongue; I remember the eyebrow raise of the nurse and the slightly awkward squirm of the doctor. It’s worth saying that asexual people can be sexually active – but for me back then, it was a much easier thing to say.
The others are conversations in the communal area of the unit, various patients squashed up on the three worn sofas, some knitting or colouring in. One day, one of the boys on the unit told me that the doctors had told him his sexuality was only because he was autistic, and after I exclaimed that I’d heard the same, he asked if I was pansexual. I remember laughing and saying no, I was “the exact opposite” (it’s not that simple, I know, but I was 15 and new to that world). It fascinates me that you can fall on different sides of a sexuality spectrum and still have your identity put down to your neurodivergence.
I don’t need to be fixed. You cannot fix what isn’t broken.
I’ve never truly wanted to be allosexual (non-asexual). I’ve had moments of my heart slightly pulling, that slight moment of desperation to be “normal” simply for your life to be easier, or to be loved. But it wears off quickly, when you remember that there genuinely isn’t something wrong with you.
I want to start writing about asexuality again; I want to talk about how it intersects with my other identities more. I want people to understand it, understand me. I want to advocate for better understanding of it in the healthcare system.
And so, that is a re-introduction to the part of me that I’ve forced myself to neglect for the last little while. My identity is too important to me to fear the backlash anymore. I’m ready to talk about it – or, at least, I will be.