Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault.
Photo courtesy of the author, Michelle.
I’m going to be crude and lewd and blunt and brash with you, just a fair additional warning.
I have identified as straight for over twenty years of my life. I had never once questioned it. Even in middle school, when the rest of my friend group was in turmoil, I was content. I was straight. I was attracted to men, both romantically and physically.
I’d get crushes on guys and guys alone, from silly to a serious soul-crushing one (pun intended). My romantic/physical history can be summed up right here: sexually assaulted at age 16, first boyfriend at age 17, hooked up with a friend on two different occasions at 18, hooked up with a different friend at age 20. No sex at all, I’m a grade A virgin or whatever it’s called. Just a lot of making out, groping, boobs – no genitalia or anything like that. No home runs or whatever baseball metaphor applies here.
The second time hooking up with a friend at 18, I started to question things. Why wasn’t I getting turned on? We’re my breasts not an erogenous zone for me? Was it just that he was bad at it?
I told myself after the fact that I probably would have slept with him that summer if we had kept in touch. That was the magic word: probably.
When I went and studied abroad in London this past summer, I told myself I was gonna get laid. Lose that V-card I knew was arbitrary, a social construct. But I just wanted to know what it was like! I read a lot of sexy fanfiction okay, but I knew that wasn’t exactly like real life. I didn’t masturbate. I’ve tried, bust mostly because I felt like I should. Like I should probably masturbate, it’s good for you, right? Probably.
But none of that happens. Masturbation felt clinical. I didn’t meet anyone that I’d want to try to have sex with, nor did I really have a desire to have sex at all. I felt aloof about it all, like checking tasks off a list.
I told myself that it would just happen when the time was right, with someone special. Probably.
Fast forward to the end of August. Differentiating between friend-crushes and Romantic-crushes is hard enough, but when one kisses you late at night and you’re caught up in the moment and say things you don’t mean and – okay.
I went farther than I ever did with him. And still, I felt nothing. No sensation of getting turned on. I made breathy sounds because I was supposed to, right? It felt so! clinical! So did making out. Fuck, even writing all this stuff out feels weird (and a little TMI, but what ya gonna do).
Now, the next day I quickly realized that it was just a friend crush and we would not work for numerous reasons unrelated to sexuality. But it still sparked it: am I asexual?
Seeing stuff on Tumblr about asexuality, the label never spoke to me. And for a week I wrote it off. That wasn’t me. Probably.
I asked my trans friend how she realized her gender identity (and by extension sexuality), and my ace friends how they figured their sexuality out. And they reminded me of something very important: sexuality is fluid. It’s about you and your identity, in this moment.
Does it feel right? It didn’t, but then my university was hosting their own pride event. I went to check it out after the main festivities were over, and they had buckets of free flags: gay, bisexual, transgender, and asexual.
Picking up the ace flag and sticking it in my ponytail, it felt right.
That’s when I put the label on it. The more I told people that, the more right it felt.
I could crack jokes about being ace, and feel comfortable about it. When I crack jokes about sex I crack myself up because of the irony like a fucking nerd.
It feels right now, but these are some questions I had to ask myself to get to this point:
- Were the guys I with just bad?
- The saltiness in me wants to say yes, but as an asexual I can’t really form an opinion.
- Do I just not have a lot of experience?
- I didn’t have any experience with people when I thought I was straight at first, so why would I need to experience sex to know that I’ve never been interested or care for it?
- Am I just traumatized from being assaulted?
- It took me a while to even consider what happened to me assault, but did it have an effect on me? Of course. But in this way? No, not at all. The only reason I even considered this option was because of the stereotype. Looking back I was always like this, I believe, but hadn’t realized or considered it.
- If I’m asexual but heteroromantic, am I still a part of the queer community?
- For a while I didn’t feel like I was. But asexuals are, no matter romantic orientation.
- If I’m asexual, does my romantic orientation matter?
- Could I date a woman? I cuddle a lot with my female friends and stuff but I don’t feel a romantic longing for them like I do for men I have crushes on. I mean, I’m in a marriage pact with my friend Emma, but that’s for tax breaks. So yes – it does matter, and being heteroromantic is still valid and complies with asexuality.
My next challenge is “coming out” to my parents. I put coming out in quotations because it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me? Not a grand event or anything; I’m not going to sit them down and discuss it. I’ve talked with my mom and she knows my birth control is for my period, she knows I have no interest in anyone at school, etc. She knows that I think marriage is real and want dogs as my children. Sex is never something in anyway or avenue I’ve expressed interest in.
I’m just keeping the ace flag on my desk, and when she visits, if she asks, I’ll tell her. If not – whatever. If my dad sees it when I go home and display it and asks, I’ll tell him. If not – whatever.
Do I think they’ll accept it? Yes. Do I think they will necessarily understand? More as a “preference” than a sexuality. Do I think they will consider their child queer? Definitely not. But it’s fine – it’s whatever.
I’ve always been this way, I think. The only difference is that I know now, in this moment, that this is what I identify as.
Knowledge is power, and now with this knowledge, I have never felt more me.
(Probably at least for now – sexuality is fluid, after all).
You can find out more about Michelle on her author page.