An Ace Perspective
18th February 2020
Beatrice shares her experiences as a young asexual person.
My first job was in football and I found myself being the only (fairly) open LGBTQI+ person in the office. It had taken me a while to come out to people around me- in fact it was actually easier to tell people that I was seeing a therapist than to discuss my sexuality. On reflection (and to be kind to myself) the fact that I was in therapy to understand my identity as an asexual person, indicates I wasn’t able/ready to share that part of myself with other people.
Before I go further, let’s get the basics sorted. Asexual people experience no sexual attraction. If you aren’t sure how that is possible, consider the people you are sexually attracted to, and those you aren’t. For asexuals, that group of people who they are not sexually attracted to, could be everyone. See? Not beyond the realms of possibility! Many asexual people may, however, experience romantic attraction.
If you are interested in learning more about this, I highly recommend AVEN resources: https://www.asexuality.org/
But back to me!
A constant voice in my mind has always made me cautious around being open about being ace(asexual). I second guess that people will not believe asexuality is an orientation and dismiss my experience. I also expect people to hit me with the usual comments: “You’ll meet someone one day. You just haven’t met them so far” or “Maybe you are just a late bloomer”.
I also wondered if it was even worth being out as asexual. I don’t find it the most interesting part of myself and I would be telling other people that I don’t experience sexual attraction. Is that really something people need to know?
But then I was still keeping myself hidden in a world of heternormativity, where colleagues talked about their different sex partners and families.
These thoughts are nothing new for LGBTQ+ people. We constantly have to assess our safety around coming out. Will this group of people accept me? Will I have to explain terminology or give more personal details than I would prefer? Will they invalidate me? Will I place myself in more danger being out?
Coming out can be different for asexual people. Firstly, there is a lot less known about asexuality so people might think we’re plants or cells (who reproduce asexually) or too picky with partners (nope- some people are just not interested!). So we have a lot more ignorance directed towards us- granted, it comes from a place of not knowing. This does make it exhausting to have to explain the same thing in each conversation. “Asexuality means experiencing no sexual attraction… some asexual people do have sex… yes asexual people can have relationships… it’s important to know that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are different.” And so on.
I brace myself to have to go on this voyage of education each time I am about to come out to someone. I feel I have a responsibility to help people learn and answer any questions, although some may not agree that I should be the one to put in this emotional labour. So whenever I have the energy and feel comfortable to have a longer discussion, I try to talk about asexuality as clearly as possible. It’s still difficult for me to share my own experiences. Being open and vulnerable can be a challenge for anyone!
For a long time, and especially at university, I was not comfortable standing out. I did not want to attract attention, as I was nervous about getting into an uncomfortable situation. I tried to blend in and avoid people’s interest. If they were interested, I was oblivious anyway! But I really wanted to be able to express myself and have fun with my appearance. I created my own barriers and limited my self-expression, and have only recently felt able to undo some of this.
As I grew more comfortable in my own skin, I was able to share more of myself at work.The office environment no longer felt quite so daunting, but instead I saw it as an opportunity to start introducing some queerness. I started to discuss different types of relationships that we all have and the different types of love. I think the biggest impact I had was breaking down the heteronormative view of the world many people had, through social expectations. I hope it gave them freedom to think wider than the confined limits that society has taught them so far.
Being in queer spaces can sometimes be uncomfortable as well. I have been part of various groups where the discussion kept drifting to sex and related topics, which I have nothing to contribute and to be honest, little interest in these discussions. It prompts feelings of worry that I don’t belong in these spaces, as I don’t share their experiences (or attraction!). Now, not to say that queer people always discuss sex, but when that conversation goes on and on and on, it has an alienating effect on me and throws me into various cycles of anxiety.
I’ve also been in groups where people seem to play into stereotypes, especially in groups of gay men. When I found myself around a group recently, I found it incredibly jarring. These men were confining themselves to boxes of what was “expected”. Perhaps it felt like a step back to me. In my journey I’ve learned about the limits I’ve placed on myself and have recently spent more time considering the different parts of my identity and ways I can express myself. Some of the people I had bumped into were staying in a small sphere of what “gay culture” looks like.
But there is more to the scene: queerness! And that gives an individual the opportunity to explore and break from the moulds of stereotypes and norms. We are so much more than our sexuality. Playing into these stereotypes and “ideals” (which, to be honest, feel very oppressive) has an impact on each individual, but also alienates other people within the LGBT+ umbrella.
Not everyone wants to go out drinking and partying. Not everyone wants to go to the gym to achieve a “perfect” body. And certainly not everyone wants to hear about your sex life all the time.
Reflecting on this though, I am conscious that I still create a box for my ace-ness. I joke about having a “no touch zone”. Actually, I really like hugs! I make references to always being single, but that neglects my desire for developing platonic relationships. It’s a big step forwards to be comfortable enough to make jokes, but I’m conscious I swing too far the other way and place more limits on myself.
Being openly asexual in sport is not really necessary- just like disclosing any personal information. But asexual visibility, in general, is really poor. Since starting my working life, I have been on a journey to better understand myself. I still feel close to the start, but I’ve been able to embrace a more flexible attitude to who I am and am challenging the boxes that I have been putting myself in for the past 26 years. So being asexual is not what I consider the most interesting part of me, but I want to share it more so it is now a visible part of me.