Coming out. When people hear that phrase, they think of an action that happens all at once. A momentous, emotionally-charged revelation to friends and family.
For some of us, gay, bi, pan, or asexual, it just doesn’t happen that way. My entire life I insisted that I had no attraction or interest in anyone of any sex or gender. I had better things to do with my time and had never felt any of the apparently pretty powerful emotions and sensations that drive other people into someone’s arms. For a long time my mind was boggled. Why did anyone bother with sex or dating?
I had the usual experience-everyone would just get that smug look on their face like they new better. “Some day” they promised, I would change my mind.
Well I didn’t. As I got older, I began to realize that I wasn’t normal. It wasn’t that other people were bizarre and silly-I was the one who was odd. I was the one who had something wrong with them. I didn’t have the needs and desires, motivations and attractions, that everyone else seemed to live with. In the early days of feminism women who wanted more were told that it was a man’s world, and they should adapt to that. The onus was on women to change to deal with men’s world, instead of the other way around, changing the world to accommodate both sexes. This world we live in is a sexual’s world, and as of right now, we supposed to change ourselves to fit into that.
And so I went into the denial stage. I tried to change myself to fit into what was normal, correct, healthy. I dated anyone who asked me out (I was lucky; they were all pleasant, decent people) because if I did what many people did, and tried to date people I was sexually attracted to, I really would have never gotten around to dating anyone at all. I dated, and I tried to convince myself that I would become attracted, would appreciate romantic and sexual interest, that I just needed to get used to it, that I would become normal (sexual) with enough work.
It didn’t work. I gave up. Years passed and I had seen people describing themselves as asexual in their profiles online. A friend of mine came out as asexual and linked to AVEN. I checked it out, considered that it fit me, and then dismissed it. I can’t say why exactly, it was probably just a result of so much brainwashing. The idea that it was unhealthy and abnormal to not be sexually attracted was too carved into my brain. I’m not going to say much more on that but I did begin to take asexuality more seriously when one of my own family members validated it, and validated my… everything. My experiences, thoughts, emotions, instead of dismissing it as “Just a phase. She’s so stubborn. You’ll grow out of it. One day…”
My sister and I talk a LOT. And because the world is what it is, we talk about relationships, sex, attraction regularly. We talked about how I’d never been attracted to someone or lusted after anyone. And one day, I heard:
“We were talking about these people who call themselves asexuals in class. Do you think you might be one?”
I replied with a simple “I dunno. Maybe.”
But I thought about it a lot. And I decided to put an end to lying awake and wracking my brains about what was “wrong” with me. I decided that I was never going to try to be something I wasn’t, or feel bad for being the way I had been born. I was happy. I knew what I was. Asexual.
Did I make that momentous revelation to everyone I knew? Not offline. There, I chose to casually mention my status as an asexual at various times, sometimes through jokes, sometimes when my I was discussing LGBTTIQQAAP issues with people. I didn’t have to make the explanations and answer questions all at once, badgered by a room full of people. I did it a lot of times, one-on-one, and while it may be less stressful and a more easily controlled situation, it also meant meeting biases and offensive comments multiple times. The repetition was more affirming though, I think. I successfully defended and explained my orientation again and again, and I have lost any shyness I might have in talking about the matter.
Now did I say I didn’t make a big coming-out speech to everyone? Well I did make one…. online. I nervously wrote the post up in my livejournal, explaining my experience and how I came to realize I was asexual to all my online friends, some of whom I’ve know for over half a decade. Others I love like my own family. I had never listed a sexual orientation anywhere. Despite knowing people for years, I’d never told them I was gay, or straight, or anything. People usually just assume what they see is what it is. If I was dating a guy, I came across as the most likely: a straight person. To people that stuck around me long enough, they’d see me making jokes about various male and female characters being hot, wanting to shag them, etc. (I do make a lot of sex jokes for an asexual…) they most likely just figured I was bisexual.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I came out online. I was worried for nothing though; all went well. I received a lot of congratulations and good will for me in figuring out my own identity and sexuality, and coming to terms with it. Sexuals and asexuals alike gave me no problems, said nothing bigoted or hurtful, and in general were delightful about the matter. I could chalk it up to online circles and fandom circles supposedly being more progressive and open to new ideas (I strongly disagree, but that’s another matter) than people in real life. Me? I think I just have great taste in friends.
I will never keep my asexuality a secret from anyone, and I will not be partly in the closet. That is not a judgment on people that do so. I just consider my asexuality, and my finding my identity as an asexual, to have been hard-won and a long struggle to come to terms with. To me, no one is worth putting it aside for or concealing it. I don’t go around screaming it from the rooftops, but if anyone asks, then I tell them. If the situation calls for it, I mention it. I have tried to educate people about asexuality’s existence, for it’s possibility as an orientation for someone they meet. I have tried to bring up asexuality whenever it’s on-topic and possibly relevant, because I want it to become normalized, familiar, so that it doesn’t march in silence.
Having to come-out is in itself problematic. If we didn’t assume everyone was hetero-orientated and sexual by default, people wouldn’t have to work up a bizarre amount of courage to spill the beans about one of their most central traits. In an ideal world, parents would say:
“So Jimmy, you’re 14 now. Have you been giving any thought as to what your orientation might be?”
and then Jimmy could answer however he liked.
But we don’t live in an ideal world, and we have to gather our courage and face rejection and negative consequences as a result. My only advice on coming-out is to make sure you’re ready. And by ready, I mean understanding those negative consequences. Because asexuality is so low on most people’s radar, we don’t have a good indication of how the people around us will react. You may be laughed at, scorned, told you’re repressed, told you’re mentally ill, that you must have been sexually abused, that you just want to be a special snowflake, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. And if you’re underage, you can be grounded or yelled at or slapped or thrown out of the house depending on how accepting your guardians are. So why bother coming out at all? It feels good. It feels great to know that someone knows what you are, and accepts you and believes you and has no problem loving you despite you being different. And while one or two people might be jackasses, we have to have faith in our ability to judge people, and that we’ve filled our circles with good friends and loving family members. If someone doesn’t love you because you’re asexual, then they never loved you at all, and while that hurts, sometimes it’s better to know.
Man, I’m cheery huh? Chins up, ace dearies ♥ Asexual Pride Forever!