coming out as ace (asexual)

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and that’s mostly because I’ve had a pretty confusing time recently. For the past month or so, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I’m not actually pan/bisexual (like I stated in a previous post), but rather a pan/biromantic asexual.

I cannot describe the relief I feel at finally having a label for my sexual orientation that accurately describes me. Where I used pan/bisexual to describe me before, I was never really convinced that it fit properly, but I just picked it up as ‘close enough’ and wore it slightly hesitantly. That being said, it has also been pretty frightening to come to terms with because I identify with the label so strongly. While I was not 100% comfortable with my previous label, I could deny parts of it, deep down, to myself. I could tell myself that I didn’t have to feel responsible for telling people about my orientation, that I didn’t want to tell people in case I confused them (because it confused me), and that I could just ignore my sexual orientation most of the time because there didn’t really seem to be a description that applied to me. I think I came out to maybe three people in the three or so years that I identified as pan/bisexual.

I’ve come out to more than that about my asexuality in the past week alone. Why? Part of it is that I really want people to understand me better. I’m a pretty closed off and confusing/confused person, so if I can find a label that carries with it an entire description about me, I want to use it. Granted, most people don’t really know anything about asexuality or its description, but I’m not opposed to explaining it if I can pull up a page on the internet to back me up. Here are some of the questions I have prepared for. I have been asked some but not all of them (yet).


What is asexuality?

Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. I am not sexually attracted to anyone regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, or appearance.

So, you’re against sex?

Personally, I am not against sex or repulsed by it. I actually enjoy it. This is not true for all asexuals, and there are many who are repulsed by sex, or are simply not interested in it.

But if you have sex, how are you asexual?

Sex drive/libido and sexual attraction are two seperate concepts. I have a pretty average sex drive, which means that sexual activity is common and important for me. I am just not sexually excited or aroused by people in general. Again, there are many asexuals who do not have sex. There are also many people of other sexual orientations who do not have sex. There are many reasons why people do or do not have sex and they may be completely unrelated to sexual orientation.

But you’re in a relationship…?

Yes, I am. I love and care deeply for my boyfriend despite lacking sexual attraction. I am romantically attracted to him and our relationship is extremely important to me.

What is romantic attraction?

Romantic attraction is the desire to be emotionally involved in a relationship with someone. I enjoy cuddling and dates and being emotionally involved in my partner’s life. For me, this is more than enough reason to be in a relationship. I feel it is important to note here, that just like sexual attraction, not all people experience romantic attraction. People who don’t are aromantic, and may or may not choose to enter into relationships – romantic, sexual or otherwise.

What is pan/biromantic?

The pan- and bi- prefixes work with romantic orientation in the same way as they work with sexual orientation. So a panromantic person is someone who experiences romantic attraction to people regardless of gender. A biromantic person is someone who experiences romantic attraction to people of the same gender as themself, as well as another gender (or other genders).

Well, which are you? Pan- or bi- romantic? 

It is often assumed that biromantic people are only attracted to men and women, but there is disagreement on the exact definition. I use biromantic because the bi-prefix is more well known and understood and doesn’t require an in-depth explanation about gender identity. This is especially important if I’m talking to someone that I don’t really want to know about my own queerness with regards to gender. Depending on the definition used, biromanticism does fit me since I do experience romantic attraction to people of a variety of genders. Panromanticism also fits me though, and possibly fits me better, because my romantic attraction to people is not really affected much by the gender of the person.


So this has really been central to my thoughts for the past month or so. I did have one panicked moment where I doubted everything I’d realised and thought “what if I’m not actually ace and I’ve just lied to all those people I’ve told and they’ll never believe me again and aaaaaah~” but when I took a moment to calm down, I realised that I’ve never really been interested in sex or anything sexualised in the media, or in shops, or in stories/movies/tv.

I had a friend who once told me that sexual release is like breathing – it’s natural and necessary and something that people just need to do every now and then. I don’t know how true his statement is, but I feel like it applies quite well to me. Sex, to me, is just a bodily function and I never really understood why society and the media seem to want to focus on and revolve around sex so much. I realise now that it isn’t really the act of sex that they’re focusing on, but rather the sexual attraction and playing it up. But that’s a topic for another post.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to ask any questions and share your thoughts and opinions (especially if I have made any mistakes! This is all new to me).

Q

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more labels to toss around the room

Today I’m marching on to a topic that is becoming more and more acceptable to discuss publicly as it is explored in the media more and more frequently – sexuality, or sexual orientation.

I count myself as one of the few fortunate enough to have grown up in a time and place where no one has ever tried to teach me that sexual orientation is something that you can get right or wrong. That is not to say that I haven’t seen people being treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation, but I am full of hope that it is possible for members of the younger generations to get all the way to adulthood without being taught any prejudice, anger or fear for people based on this.

As a kid, I didn’t really think about relationships or marriage much – people try to avoid teaching you that stuff until you’re a bit older, so I just figured it was one of those adult things that would happen eventually. All the adults that I knew were either male/female married couples, or they were single (divorced, widowed or simply never married). So the only thing I really thought was that you either choose to get married, or choose to not get married. I was dead set on being a hermit on a mountain somewhere, so it seemed like an obvious choice for me!

No, not this kind of hermit! It would be pretty cool though.

As I got older, they started to teach me a bit more, and I came across the concept of homosexuality. It was interesting, but otherwise uneventful. I just kind of thought: “Oh, okay. I didn’t know that was a thing. I wonder why I don’t know anyone like that. I guess it’s just really uncommon.” Though I still held onto my dreams of being a hermit, I thought to myself that if I did end up getting married, it would probably be to a guy because then we could both climb trees and play video games together. I really didn’t want to think about spending all my time shopping and talking about fake tans. (Obviously there were no gender stereotypes in kid-me’s head at all.)

Clearly every woman is like this.

When I was about 15, I took a Health class as a more interesting alternative to Economics (which was driving me insane). It was definitely interesting. We had an all female class (the only guy dropped out after the first week… go figure) and I learnt a lot more about sex than I ever really needed or wanted to know. But I was introduced to the term, bisexuality, and that was quite an interesting thing for me to get my head around. I don’t know if I’m strange in this or not (I know I’m strange in a lot of other ways) but at 15, I had never really thought about sex in the slightest (possibly not helped by the fact that I was so conflicted with my gender identity).  I’d had a couple of boyfriends, sure, but they really were just that to me. Friends that were boys, that you got to hug, and hold hands with, and talk about everything with. Sex was something gross and weird and adult and I wasn’t ready to stop being a kid, ever.

So my then-current understanding of relationships was that there were three options:

1) You’re heterosexual and you get married to someone of the opposite gender

2) You’re homosexual and you get a Civil Union with someone of the same gender

3) You don’t marry, move to the mountains and grow a long beard

Option 4) Seduce Peter Pan.

There really wasn’t room in my understanding for bisexuality, because you couldn’t get married to two people. Around about this time, my best friend opened up about being bisexual. I didn’t really know what to think about that. I remember bringing it up with an adult who told me that people our age were often confused about what they wanted, and liked to experiment and try new things to figure it out. I knew that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted really, except for some good, close friends, but she had been very confident and relaxed about her sexual identity – like it was just another fact about her. She could have been talking about her hair colour. (Now, of course, I appreciate that that’s exactly what your sexual orientation is – a fact about you, and not a definition of you.)

medusa

Although for Medusa, her hair -kinda- does define her.

Then, I got a boyfriend (who I’m still with today). Unfortunately, around this time my best friend and I had a falling out and stopped speaking to each other. I doubt I’ll ever know what that was about – whether she was hurt that I wouldn’t be able to hang out with her as much, or if it was something more than that – but I realised that losing her felt exactly the same to me as losing boyfriends I’d had in the past. I’d enjoyed her company, admired her talents, loved getting to know her, and I kind of thought, what’s the difference between that and what I had with boyfirends?

From what I knew, the main difference between a close friendship, and a sexual relationship was the sexual part – the intimacy and the sexual attraction. The trouble was, the sexual part was the bit I felt I didn’t get the instructions for. I was capable of being attracted to people, but not really for their bodies. I didn’t really look at people and think, wow, they look hot. I could appreciate the difference between looking nice and looking ugly (which I actually feel bad for thinking. I hate judging people based on how they look), but I wasn’t really attracted to people based on this alone. It took me a while, but eventually I realised that it was people’s personalities, actions and motivations that spoke loudest to me. What I was attracted to was who people were, how they saw and interacted with life, and how they treated me. And with that understanding came the realisation that I really didn’t care whether they had boobs or a beard, because that wasn’t the part that mattered to me.

What mattered was whether or not they had a cat.

Since then I have learnt that there are a whole range of other sexual identites out there. There are multiple labels that could apply to me but I would probably say that bisexual or pansexual fits best. But the label itself is mostly academic as I am happy with my boyfriend.

I find myself reluctant to discuss my sexuality because it’s so easy to just let people assume I am straight because I have a boyfriend. I feel as though there would be no benefit to coming out as bi- or pan-sexual and risk being alienated by both my straight and gay friends. That being said, I don’t really try to hide my attractions towards girls (or my mix-and-matched gender identity), I just don’t put a label on it and nobody asks any questions. I’m pretty sure that some of my family and friends know or have guessed that I’m not your regular het girl, but they seem content to stay quiet and not throw labels around. The one or two people I have told have been very accepting, but often seem desperate to divert the conversation elsewhere. And I’m okay with that, because it really is just one more fact about me, and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a personal preference.

Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know if you have any thoughts or opinions on this topic.

Q

straight into the deep end

I’m going to start by taking a bold step and talking about the topic that is the most difficult for me to talk about to anyone, the topic that causes and has caused me the most anguish and unease in my day-to-day life. It is something extremely fundamental to who we are, how we perceive others, and how we decide on our own behaviours and reactions to the people around us. It is something that is normally so basic and straightforward that it is usually taken for granted.

If you haven’t already guessed, my topic for this post is gender identity.

Just to clarify briefly what I mean by that, gender identity is the gender or genders that you personally identify with. It’s how you feel on the inside. It can be different from biological sex, which is the genetics and anatomy that you were born with.

Most people assume that if you’re born with boy parts, you’re a boy, and if you’re born with girl parts you’re a girl. And for the majority of the population, this is a reasonably safe assumption. But gender identity is not something that is openly talked about usually, and so you may not even be aware that there are a significant number of people around you for whom this assumption is not true. From the safety of hiding behind my screen, I can put my hand right up and say:

“Hi! I am one of those people! Nice to meet you.”

So, I suppose I should tell a little bit about my gender.

I am biologically female. So I have boobs, and estrogen, and two X chromosomes, and I tick the box marked “Female” on forms and documents. But from a very young age, I have not been completely comfortable with the last item on that list.

When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I got a doll for Christmas. I immediately threw it across the room. Now, when you are about 3 or 4 years old, you think that your parents are the highest form of divine being. In your eyes, they know everything, and they are showing you to the path that is right for you. They are basically God. (Or at least that is my experience.) Of course, I never asked for things that I wanted, so in reality my parents couldn’t have known that I wanted building blocks, or toy dinosaurs, but I felt like they knew everything so they must know. I felt like maybe I hadn’t been good enough that year, that maybe I was being pusnished by receiving a present that I couldn’t really use or enjoy. Yes, you can judge me and say I should have been grateful I got anything at all, but really, I probably would have been happier not getting anything than having to face the realisation that:

a) my parents didn’t know everything and weren’t God (yeah, this was bound to happen eventually but it still hurt!)

and b) that I was a girl, and this was a girl toy, but we weren’t right for each other so… something wasn’t right here.

I didn’t get any more dolls as presents. And as soon as I started dressing myself, I stopped wearing dresses, skirts, or pink. This was made much easier because almost all of my clothes were hand-me-downs from a male family friend, but I think I would have avoided thoses items of clothing regardless. It wasn’t that I refused to wear them if I was required to for some occasion like a wedding, but I just preferred not to wear overly feminine clothes. Soemtimes my school friends would ask me why I always wore my trademark shorts and tee shirt and sandals and I would just tell them that it was comfy and practical, and that you can’t climb trees or monkey bars in a dress. Because at Primary School it was really only the clothing and hair that differentiated boys and girls. Anatomically there wasn’t much difference in size, strength and shape. I had the choice about my clothing. If I had the choice about my hair, it would have been short too. But at this age, just dressing and acting ‘male’ was enough for me.

Intermediate was much more challenging. We were introduced to school uniforms. To this day, I am extremely grateful that I went to such a realxed and tolerant intermediate school. The girls were allowed to wear skirts or shorts. I was told that none of the girls wear the shorts, but I didn’t care. I bought a pair of each. And within 2 weeks of school starting and me wearing my shorts alone among the girls, a handful of other girls had bought shorts too. I had gotten a few odd looks in the first few days, but after that nothing. And that acceptance was a beautiful thing to come so easily from 11 and 12 year old kids. Unfortunately, Intermediate school became challenging in other ways because girls and boys were starting to differentiate in appearance. And, (heaven forbid!) we were beginning to get hormones. (GASP) I felt, more than ever, that I would have to pick a side. It was becoming more and more difficult to get along with both boys and girls, and I didn’t really feel like I belonged with either. The girls were into suntans and makeup and shaving their legs and boys. The boys just wanted to muck around, run around, and play. I knew which side I wanted to be on. (Here’s a clue: I couldn’t care less about suntans or makeup!) But it was quickly becoming harder for me to pass myself off as “one of the guys”. They were all getting bigger and stronger, and I was getting curvier. Probably the most upsetting thing to me at the time was that I could no longer win any wrestling matches. (I know, so sad. I’ll never be a pro wrestler)

High school was a big mess for me. I’m pretty sure it’s a big mess for everyone. I think it’s meant to be. I stopped trying to be “one of the guys”. I kind of just stopped trying in general, socially. I drifted from group to group, and decided to focus instead on my schoolwork. As a result, I got amazing grades, but had practically no social life.

With these amazing grades, I was able to get into the most male dominated degree: Engineering. People often ask me if its difficult being in a class with so few girls, but honestly, we don’t really notice the gender imbalance. The girls in engineering do tend to stick together for numerous reasons, but in class we find that we all think alike. We don’t think like girls or like guys. We simply think like engineers. And, for the most part, (there are a few exceptions, but very few) we are not treated differently.

So after all of that confused mess of flashbacks, I still haven’t really given you a label for my gender identity. I think that that’s an important thing to note, because many of you may have come up with some possible labels while reading this story. It’s important to realise that it’s human nature to try to label things as it makes it easier for you to react to them and deal with them appropriately. But it’s equally important to remember that my gender identity is the label that I personally identify best with. Looking back at my story, I’m sure that there are many labels that could apply, and I could also argue that the only label I need is my name, that I am me, unique, and that’s okay. But I also find comfort in having a label for myself, because it means that there is a category for me. That I’m not alone, or wrong, or broken. That there are other people out there who are like me. And the label that I think best describes myself is genderqueer.

What does that mean? It means that I don’t really identify as exclusively male or female. Neither gender is strongly representative of how I feel on the inside, but rather I feel as though I am somewhere in the middle, enjoying traits of both genders. I feel that instictively I am more male on the inside, but over time I have ‘learnt’ (in a sense) how to be more female (helped along by being biologically female). I don’t really know if this is what I wanted to become or not, but it is who I am now, and I’m happy to accept that. When I was younger, I would sometimes entertain the thought of taking steps to actually become male, but the process seems so unnatural and destructive to me (I didn’t even really want to get my ears pierced for a long while!) and I don’t really want to put my body through that, or risk in any way the health and safety of the body that I have been given. I really want to add here that I don’t have anything at all against people who do decide to take steps to change their sex – quite the opposite in fact! I admire wholeheartedly the bravery and determination required for that kind of decision. You are much stronger people than I could be. And I respect that everyone has the right to make the decision for themself.

The other reason I chose this label to identify with is that I feel like this is a challenge that has been given to me – that I have been given this conflicting set of identities in my body and mind as a test that I must overcome personally. And it has been given to me to help me to better understand people and their diversity. Really, I have learnt so much about accepting other people through coming to terms with my own identity that I feel it would be taking a step backwards in my own personal progress if I were to decide to change my sex at this stage.

So this is who I am. It wasn’t really that difficult for me to talk about after all. But I still feel like it’s something you can’t voice out loud, whether because the suject is taboo, or because many people simply don’t understand (or don’t want to). All the same it feels good to get it off my chest.

There aren’t a lot of well-known genderqueer role models to look up to in the world. I don’t know of any and I haven’t personally met anyone that has told me they identify as genderqueer, but this doesn’t really surprise me since I haven’t really told anyone that I am (except for you guys)! Based on this, chances are that this could be the first genderqueer life story you’ve heard and I hope that I’ve shown you something new through my perspective on life. And to anyone reading who is genderqueer, or gender non-binary in some way, I would love to hear from you, and I would like to say to you that you are not alone in your struggles 🙂
To anyone reading (gender identity of any kind, including everyone who is thinking ‘but I’m just a regular guy/girl’), I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on what I have shared today.

Thank you so much for reading!

Q