I remember playing Never Have I Ever at summer camp when I was fifteen and being one of the few people in the circle to not put a finger down for “never have I ever had sex.” At that point in my life I’d kissed a few boys but I’d never done anything more than that and hadn’t really had any interest to. I figured I was just young and would catch on later. It seemed normal enough to still be a virgin at fifteen.
More time passed but I still hadn’t “caught on” the way I expected to. I knew some of my friends were having sex but they were all in relationships and I wasn’t. I’d never seen the appeal in random hookups so the opportunity hadn’t even presented itself. Things seemed a little weird but I just brushed any worries away. So I was a late bloomer, no big deal.
I started questioning things more seriously though when I was a sophomore in college and had my first boyfriend. Our relationship was 100% consensual and naturally, he brought some things up. He wanted us to take our clothes off and asked if he could touch me or if I wanted to do anything to him. I wasn’t repulsed by the idea but I didn’t get it. Why do any of that stuff when we could just make out and watch tv?
After a couple months I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Lots of people my age and younger were having sex and they all seemed to like it. Clearly I was the odd one out in the situation.
Not knowing what else to do, I turned to the internet. I can’t remember exactly what my first Google search was but I eventually found the term ‘asexuality.’ (No, not the one with plants.) I went to forums and read people’s stories and was amazed. What they were describing sounded a lot like what I’d been feeling for years, even if I hadn’t always realized it. Maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with me after all.
I continued doing research and continued to like what I was finding. I learned that romantic attraction and sexual attraction are separate things. You can like people and want to date them but not feel sexually attracted to them. (The opposite is also true which is identified as being aromantic.) Additionally, asexuality is a spectrum and it’s different for everyone. Some asexual people don’t feel an urge to do anything physical while others like kissing but don’t want to go any further. Some asexual people even desire and enjoy sex but still don’t experience formal sexual attraction. My new knowledge made me feel liberated. There were other people just like me and—as cliche as it sounds—I was perfect just the way I was.
Some people say that they think labels divide us and we should just be whoever we are and not keep trying to define everything. While there are definitely situations where labels may be used to divide people, I don’t think they’re entirely bad. Discovering the term asexual and using it to define myself has made me feel more comfortable in my own body and that’s a powerful thing.
LGBTQ+ education is important because no one should ever have to think they’re wrong or broken because of how they feel. I was 20 when I discovered who I was and even I kind of wish I had known sooner. Some people are older than that or may even live their whole life feeling like they’re wrong and different. We also need more education to help reduce stigmas. I worry about what I’ll do in future relationships. (The college boyfriend didn’t work out for reasons totally unrelated to my sexual orientation.) When should I tell the person that I’m asexual? Should I say it immediately so it’s out there or should I wait until we’re more comfortable with each other? What if he ends up being one of those people who think asexual people are just confused and will be “fixed” when the right person has sex with them and I find myself in an un-consensual situation? People shouldn’t have to be afraid to be open about who they are. Luckily, no one will know I’m asexual unless I tell them but not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community has that luxury.
This year for Pride month I encourage you to spend some time researching an identity and/or orientation you don’t know much about and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let’s learn and grow together and maybe one day LGBTQ+ discrimination will be a thing of the past.