Edge of Everywhere

Archive for the ‘coming out’ Category

Hello, blogosphere. Long time no see. I can’t believe it’s been more than 5 years (about 5.5 now) since I first realized I was asexual and started this blog in the fall of 2008. I have come a long way, especially in the past year, in terms of fully owning my asexuality letting go of the fears I have around it and around being out (particularly the fear of not being considered as a potential partner by anyone if I come out to them). I’m out to my best friends, members of a support group I’m in (unrelated to sexuality), and a few other people. I want to be out to more people, but I tend not to bring it up, out of a combination of not knowing how to and not knowing how the conversation will go/not wanting to deal with uncomfortable and prying questions.

Something I’ve become more comfortable with lately is identifying as queer but not specifying where exactly I fall on the spectrum. Before I knew about asexuality, my strongest sense was that I was just not heterosexual, and the hardest thing for me about not being out is being assumed to be heterosexual, because it makes me feel misunderstood and like an impostor who’s going to be revealed as not knowing the secret hetero handshake (which is how it felt when I briefly tried to date heterosexual guys).

So with some people in my life, I’ve done what I see as coming half-out – as queer or not-heterosexual but not specifically as asexual. In a creative group I’m a part of, I was recently poked fun at for my lack of knowledge about an aspect of heterosexual sex. I got embarrassed and frustrated and sarcastically blurted out “Sorry,” adding “I’m not even into guys!” That was the end of the conversation, and now I assume those friends think I’m gay. And I’m okay with that for today. I could see myself being in a relationship with a woman, and if I were, people would assume I was gay, just like they assumed I was heterosexual when I had a male partner. I have no control over what people assume without having more information. But I immediately felt better when I knew they didn’t assume I was heterosexual anymore. And someday, when I feel comfortable, I want to tell them I’m asexual because they’re important to me and so is my identity. But I know there’s no point in pressuring myself–the idea of making my lack of sexual interest a topic of conversation, especially in a group setting, is still incredibly uncomfortable to me, and that’s okay.

In a conversation with a mentor recently, I mentioned not being out to the aforementioned group of friends, and I felt an immediate switch in how she talked to me–in a good way. She likes to talk about guys, but after that, instead of assuming I was like her and would relate to her experience, she explained what her experience of a particular situation was like as a heterosexual woman. And it felt really good to be acknowledged as having a different experience and not being expected to know what hers was like. It’s not super important to me how much she knows about my sexuality; the experience just confirmed that I am definitely more comfortable at this point aligning myself with queerness, whether or not it feels comfortable or relevant to bring up asexuality specifically.

I have conflicted feelings about my ability and tendency to pass as heterosexual. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with people by highlighting only the commonalities in the way we experience attraction and relationships. On the other, it allows people to assume things about me that are not true, which makes me uncomfortable, and it keeps them from fully understanding me.

I’ve recently made a few new female friends, and for most of them, “boy talk” is an important way of bonding. I never mind listening to their experiences and offering advice if they ask, and I am able to drop small bits of information that mark me as like them, even though it’s evident that I am less interested in boys and dating than they are.

However, as I get to be closer friends with people, I find myself wanting to be able to be myself with them and speak honestly about my relationships, including the parts they won’t be able to relate to. But the longer I go without mentioning my asexuality, and the longer I let them believe that I am heterosexual, the harder it seems to find the right time to bring it up, and the weirder it feels to be like, “Hey, it’s true that I like guys, but I don’t want to have sex with them.” I still haven’t figured out if and how I’m going to tell them, besides waiting for a relevant conversation to provide the perfect segue (which has happened to me before, but isn’t something I can count on).

I hate the word asexual. I hate that the “a” can be easily swallowed and the “sexual” is so prominent. Asexuality is the only orientation without a widely known alternative word, and I think it’s ironic and cruel that when asexuals come out to people, we’re the only ones who have no choice but to use a word containing “sex” even though we’re the only ones who don’t care about having any. It’s also unfair that we have to use a word that describes only one aspect of our relationships, the one aspect we don’t care about. It doesn’t say anything about the relationships we do have and want. It confuses people, makes them try to diagnose our “problems,” makes them feel like they have the right to know about our masturbation habits. I can’t wait until asexuality is more widely understood and “ace” catches on, because that’s something I can actually feel good about saying.

The other day, I told one of my friends, who is clearly attracted to me, that I’m asexual. His immediate response was, “You’re not asexual.” Not helpful. He then expressed skepticism about the existence of asexuality as an orientation. I think he was driven by wishful thinking that I’m normal and he might have a chance at hooking up with me. I tried my best to explain it, but I hate being on the defensive and got flustered. By the end of the conversation, he actually had me half-convinced that I might not be asexual after all.

I was brought back to reality when I read the recent post by The Gray Lady in which she discusses her current relationship. She writes, “The key to my enjoyment is in the approach my partner takes towards asexuality. If they try to convince me I’m not asexual, I won’t be comfortable with it. If they try to understand asexuality, accept it and work around it, then it won’t be an issue.” I realized this applies to me as well. If someone can’t accept what I tell them about my identity, then I can’t be involved with them. I have this habit of making huge sacrifices in relationships without even realizing I’m doing it, and I can’t keep getting stuck in a trap of going along with what other people want if I know on any level that it’s not what I want. 

I’m so grateful to have found the asexual community. Reading about other people’s experiences has been invaluable to me. It helps so much to know that other people have experienced the same things I have, and to be reminded that I have the right to decide what I want in relationships. I know it sounds obvious, but sadly, deciding exactly what I want in a relationship and making sure I get it is somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It’s great to feel like I have the support of people who, for once, acknowledge and accept the way I am and inspire me to make sure that the people in my life do so as well.

Yesterday, someone I had just met asked me whether I’m queer. It was in the context of trying to figure out whether I would be able to relate to some experiences she has had as a lesbian. I said no, because if I have to pick a word, I guess I’m heteroromantic, but I didn’t feel totally comfortable with my answer. I mean, I know that if someone wants to know if I’m queer, they most likely specifically want to know whether I like girls, but I also know that asexuality is often said to fall somewhere on the queer spectrum by virtue of being something other than heterosexuality. It’s been strange realizing that I’m not part of the majority, as I always assumed I must be due to my romantic attraction to guys, but that I can’t easily seek refuge in the queer community either, where I feel like the assumption that I want to have sex with guys would most likely just be replaced with the assumption that I want to have sex with girls. Right now I’m feeling pretty invisible.