Let me start this off by saying: Hello and thank you, sincerely, for reading this post!
In case you have stumbled upon this without the faintest idea of who I actually am: My name is Tom and I am a translator/writer from Luxembourg, a teensy little country in central Europe.
This post is about something which has been increasingly weighing on me for quite some time. In fact, I have set out to write this piece numerous times already, but always decided to abandon the whole endeavour. In the end, Team Doubts always prevailed in my inner debates.
No one needs to hear this
No one cares
You are just a bit weird, get over it
It’s a personal preference, so what
You are a privileged cunt, taking up space and wasting time that should be reserved for other voices
For a long time, I really thought Team Doubts was on my side. Their arguments seemed reasonable, in a way I felt like they were just trying to protect me from public embarrassment. Looking back at it now, I realise just how afraid I actually was of the reaction this post might generate. In fact, it is insanely difficult to describe the mixture of anxiety, liberation, worry, and power that is contained in this incredibly mundane sentence:
My name is Tom and I am asexual.
Let’s talk about it.
What is asexuality?
As with anything associated with questions of sexual orientation and gender identities: It’s complicated. Asexuality is no exception and thus you should in no way think of it as a simple binary matter of black and white. However, for the sake of making this post as accessible to as many readers as possible, the core of asexuality boils down to this:
(…) [A]sexuality is a sexual orientation where a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards anyone (…)https://www.reddit.com/r/asexuality/wiki/what_is_asexuality
“Sexual attraction” is a key part of this definition right here. When allosexuals (= people who are not on the asexual spectrum and experience sexual attraction sometimes or regularly) hear this definition, they often seem confused. So, before going any further, I think it would be beneficial to bust some myths about asexuality straight out of the gate:
Asexuals hate sex
This is too broad of a statement. The truth is that some do, some are indifferent, and some even enjoy having sex. A lack of sexual attraction says nothing about your like/dislike/indifference regarding sex!
Asexuals never engage in relationships
Despite of what the majority of pop culture seems to suggest most of the time, sexual attraction has nothing to do with one’s desire to engage in a romantic relationship with someone else. There are aromantics, which is to say people who don’t experience romantic attraction but might experience sexual attraction, as well as aro-aces, i.e. people who neither experience romantic nor sexual attraction. The main take-away here is: If someone merely states that they are asexual, it says nothing about their stance regarding romantic relationships.
Asexuality is the same as celibacy
Celibacy means the voluntary decision to abstain from sexual activities. As we have already learned, asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction in the first place, and some asexuals have no problem engaging in sexual activities or even enjoy them just as any allosexual would.
These are just some of the most common myths surrounding asexuality, but we will bust some more as we progress through this article. However, before I start talking about my personal story, I think some of you might appreciate it if I clarify, what “sexual attraction” actually means when we are talking about asexuality. Since the subreddit r/asexuality already provides great definitions for all of these terms, allow me to just quote straight from their wiki again:
Sexual attraction is an urge to actually have sex with specific people in real life. It is distinct from arousal because it involves an identifiable target (…). It is both possible to have libido without experiencing attraction (…) (common among asexuals) or to experience attraction without libido (usually a symptom of a sexual dysfunction).https://www.reddit.com/r/asexuality/wiki/the_spectra#wiki_sexual_attraction
I certainly don’t want to bore you with any more details, so if you want to find out more about the nitty-gritty of it all, feel free to click through the Reddit wiki. However, before diving into more personal matters, I thought it might be a good idea to at least make sure that we establish a baseline idea of what we are even talking about here.
A life of bluffing
Puberty is quite a… special period in life, isn’t it? Interesting, for sure, but also very, very weird.
I remember back in the very first year of secondary school, when I was 13 years old, a lot of my fellow boys were starting to discover their awakened libido and sexuality, after having just learned how to put a condom on a banana during their final year in primary school. Talk about sex and genitals was almost a daily occurrence and as proud members of the Zillenial generation (horrific name that apparently designates people born in the late 90s who grew up in the early 2000s) a lot of them took full advantage of the emerging medium of the internet. And with the internet, there came of course… porn (pun fully intended).
Porn sites, to be precise. Practically all of my classmates seemed to visit these sites and indulge in their content. Knowing the names of the wildest sex positions and the most niche categories imaginable became somewhat of a “mark of maturity” (you really lack self-awareness at that age). At this point, I should specify that I was a very timid teen, which already did not help me become what you might call a “popular kid”. I was very susceptible to peer-pressure and so, hearing all of this saucy talk in locker rooms and before classes, gave me the impression that I should better hop onto this train as well.
I hated it. I watched maybe two seconds of that video before I immediately closed the browser altogether. I was absolutely bewildered: How could they watch something like that? Even more bizarrely, it really did seem like they were enjoying it too. How was this possible? I had no answers to these questions back then, I just knew that I never wanted to watch anything like that ever again.
To this day, I cannot watch porn. And today, I know that it has nothing to do with the quality of the film either – I simply cannot watch videos showing sexual intercourse. It makes me uncomfortable. It even makes me nauseous to a certain extent.
However, back then, at 13 years of age, I knew that I could not admit this out loud. And so I did something which was to become a major part of my teenage years, and even much of my young-adult-life: I bluffed.
It did not stop with porn either. Whenever there was talk about which celebrity you would like to sleep with (no one is convinced of their own amazingness more than teenage boys), whenever a round of Fuck, Marry, Kill came up: I played along. I invented, mirrored, and imitated desires that seemed to preoccupy a lot of my classmates’ free time.
Looking back at it today, having learnt about asexuality and what it means, so many pieces of my life that up until now never really made sense to me start clicking together.
Whenever I developped an interest in a girl, a great confusion settled down on my life. Yes, there was of course the usual awkwardness, there was me not bringing up the courage to ask or say certain things… but there was another type of confusion. Whenever I managed to talk to someone I was interested in, I always reached a point where I felt a strange emptiness inside of me. An emptiness, a bewilderement that I also felt when I read or watched stories portraying romantic relationships. I never understood how these fictional characters did it. How do they end up kissing or even in bed together? What is this weird force driving them to do these things? These are questions I asked myself regularly for several years. I pondered over these questions because for the life of me I could not imagine a situation in which I would want to do that. I simply could not understand it. Today I know why: I do not feel sexual attraction.
Acknowledging, accepting, living
As I grew older certain things changed, of course. This is something that I believe is worth stressing again and again, no matter where you personally stand: Sexual orientation and gender identity are not rigid states of being. Like everything in this reality, they are subject to impermanence, they change, fluctuate, and evolve as you move through the currents of existence.
Since I’ve been together with my girlfriend (the first romantic relationship I’ve ever been in), I’ve learned for instance that while I have a strong dislike for porn, I don’t actually find sex to be repulsive. In fact, acknowledging and embracing my asexuality has helped me love and appreciate the relationship I have with my girlfriend on a whole other level (Please also read the addendum at the end of this post for more on the effect my personal relationships had on my journey!)
You might ask at this stage: Does your asexuality affect your life at all then? Oh, you have no idea. See, the thing is that sexual attraction is taken as such a given that it is very subtly engrained and taken for granted in so many life situations. As an asexual man, I cannot tell you how weird the classic stereotype of All men just want to have sex all the time is for me. I am saying that I just feel weird, but as I am writing this, I realise that it is almost certain that there are asexual men out there who are really hurt by jokes like this. At its core, belief in this stereotype makes asexual existence just… not possible.
I’ve been on quite the introspective journey these past years. Along the way, I found many keys, hugged a great number of inner demons, and made peace with feelings that I’d been fighting for a long time. But never in all this time have I felt liberation so close to my heart as today. I truly feel that I am finally here. Fully.
No more bluffs. My card is on the table: It’s the ace of hearts – Always has been.
The road to asexual liberation
The common struggles faced by many asexuals in society today, I went through myself. In many ways, I still had it easy, of course. I’m aware of that and the privileged circumstances of my upbringing are something that I try to keep on my mind at all times.
But there were times when I did feel broken. I felt alienated from others, even my closest friends. I have felt intense self-hatred and a rage, an exasperating rage at nothing and everything. I felt hurt. And I felt like I simply could not be loved.
The phobia aimed at asexuals is of a particular kind. While gay and trans people sadly still have to fight pure hatred and aggression, asexuals face what I would describe as belittling denial. Asexuals are often just not taken seriously, either because people confuse it with celibacy or because they simply do not believe that we exist. Everybody wants to fuck is seen as this eternal law of nature and while this may sound quite funny, you have to understand that it is precisely this sort of ridicule and brushing aside that drives so many, far too many, asexuals into serious mental health crises.
It cannot be stressed often enough that what is true for any other sexual orientation or gender identity is true for asexuality as well: It is not a choice, it is who we are.
So, in that sense I feel that we as asexuals have to be loud and clear: We will no longer stay silent. We will be in your face, we will get you to acknowledge our existence. Trust us, you’ll be fine – we get a worldview based on sexual attraction shoved into our faces all the time and we turned out alright… Learning about a different perspective might just be the thing to freshen up your life, who knows?
There are people who wonder why there is always so much talk about representation. Most of them are allos and I feel like this is a big part of their confusion. Should you be one of these sceptics, let me tell you today that representation can save lives.
- Representation means telling millions of kids that they are doing just fine.
- Representation means telling someone that their nature does not stand in the way of their happiness
- Representation means celebrating the colourful, diverse world that we live in.
However, since I’ve started browsing through asexuality forums online, I had to realise that there is another challenge people like me face. As asexuals we are part of the LGBTQIA+ community – I made sure to state this as unambiguously as possible because as it turns out, there are certain groups WITHIN the LGBTQ+ community that take issue with asexuals. It should be pointed out that they are a minority and the hate mostly takes place online. Nevertheless, it should still be addressed and denounced. Not just by us though, but by our other LGBTQ+ friends as well. We need to realise: If we do not protect and advocate for each other, what point does this movement have?
If you have read this whole post until the end, I want to take a moment to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for listening to this story. It has been so long in the making and I think it is not an exaggeration to say that this has been my favourite tale to tell so far.
Much love from a proud ace
– Tom 💜
There is a very important aspect of this that I now realise I have not made clear enough in my original post.
When it comes to my personal story, I really cannot stress enough how important the people closest to me have been in my journey to a better self. One of the reasons I was able to handle so many of my inner struggles in the end was because I have always had people who I could rely on unconditionally.
There are my closest friends, who have been there for so many years. I have never felt the need to hide from any of them and I am beyond grateful for their continued support.
And then, of course, there is my girlfriend. Since we’ve been together, she has been an unrelenting force of love and healing in my life. It is thanks to her that I finally truly found peace within myself, thanks to her and her patience that she offers me every day. I realise that it is not always easy being together with me, but it has to be said that without her, this post would probably never have been written. She was the one to give me the love I had always refused to give myself. Thank you, my love, for that alone I am forever yours.
Truth be told, this post was rushed towards the end. I only yesterday found out about the International Asexuality Day and I immediately realised that I could not pass up this opportunity to publish my story. It was a “now or never” situation and while I am still happy with how the post turned out (and a lot of you seem too) this here is something I really wanted to add. Because I do not take the support I receive for granted. I never have and I never will and I will go to any lengths to return it to the best of my abilities.