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What does it mean to be asexual? Coming out, resources, and finding community.

Today, I wanted to highlight a lesser known part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. We’ll be highlighting one of the A’s in the community which stands for asexuality. It’s actually an umbrella term, so there’s a range of where people may identify.


Some asexuals also called “Aces” may have low or no sexual attraction or interest in sex. Some enjoy being in emotional relationships, and some do not. Some aces identify as gay, straight, bi, or any other orientation to describe their attraction while some don’t experience attraction at all. This is by no means a chat explaining every asexual person’s life, this is just one experience, one story.


On the call today we have Mary who will be sharing their experiences. Thank you so much for being on the show today. 




Q: To start off, how did you first figure out you were on the ace-spectrum?


For a little clarification before I start - I identify as both asexual and aromantic, meaning that not only have I never really felt any sexual interest towards other people - I’ve also never really felt any kind of special romantic interest either. In my own personal experience, these are often conflated, because how can I understand the difference between two things I’ve never even felt !? But I want to add a disclaimer that this is not be true for all asexual people, some of whom do feel powerful feelings of romantic interest, which may or may not be gendered.


For me, I think the first step was realizing that everyone else wasn’t ace spectrum! When I was much younger, I used to think that no one really had crushes, or wanted to date - I figured that was something for hollywood movies, or maybe just for old people (i.e. people my parents age). I thought that people who talked about hot celebrities or cried over unrequited love were just acting adult for attention - after I didn’t really care about such things, so surely no one else did either. When adults joked about “no dating until after college”, I thought that sounded like a great idea; When sex ed classes emphasized the importance of resisting peer pressure to be sexual, I just figured I was great at resisting peer pressure!


Eventually, though, it got to the point where even I couldn’t be oblivious to the fact that people were serious, and that I was the odd one out. At that point (in high school now), I was still young enough that I figured maybe I was just a late bloomer; and that eventually I’d wake up and discover the magic of boys. Or maybe, I thought, I was just so nerdy and focused on studying and geek hobbies that I hadn’t noticed any attraction that was going on. Or maybe I was just a confused lesbian? Only, girls didn’t seem to give me any sort of  “special feeling” either. At that point, I was back at square one - confused and bad at being bisexual, or just an extra late bloomer after all?


For a while, I just sort of tabled it and tried not to think about it - I had plenty of other things to focus on after all, like school and studying and extracurricular groups and hobbies. Then, one day when I was browsing miscellaneous tv tropes wiki pages online, I stumbled across a concept I had never heard of before - this thing called, “asexuality”. 


Curious, I read on, and found links to the asexual visibility and education network forums, where I started reading more and more stories from asexual people, and all I could think was “this...sounds exactly like me”. 


Before then, I’d never really read any descriptions of sexuality that resonated with me, in books or movies or nonfiction stories  - I had always written that off as something about how all published articles are a little cheesy or exaggerated anyway. But it turns out, I just hadn’t ever seen writing about sexuality from someone like me before. 


From there, I just went straight down the rabbithole of learning more and more about this new asexual community I’d found. Even then, it was still a long road to becoming more sure of my identity (I spent at least a year of cycling through every possible doubt - what if I”m too young? What if I’m just repressed? What if I’m just confused? What if I just haven’t found my type? What if I’m wrong?), and even longer before I was comfortably really telling other people about it. Eventually, though, I just reached a point where I realized that calling myself anything else - like trying to claim that I was gay, or straight - just felt too much like a lie.




Q: Where can people find resources about being ace or getting involved with the ace community?


For those first learning about asexuality, I would recommend starting with Aces & Aros’ intro to “Understanding Asexuality and Aromanticism” - it’s a quick, easy to ready, 30 minute introduction to the basic ace (and aro!) terms and concepts. 


For those who are already somewhat familiar with asexuality 101 topics - or who may be asexual themselves - I would also recommend checking out more in-depth writing and personal perspectives from long-running ace anthologies like the Carnival of Aces blogging carnival, the AZE Journal, and the AVENues magazine. Finally, for information on ace communities, ace activist orgs, and other resources, I’m going to promote my local ace group’s resource directory here: http://asexualitysf.org/resources/general-ace-resources


Q: Has there been any interesting experiences when coming out for you?


One of the most interesting things about coming out to friends has been discovering how many other people I know ended up coming out as ace - it turns out that several of my old friends from high school also ended up coming out as ace years later. At the time, I had thought I was all alone in my questioning, but turns out we were all going through something similar! Sometimes I wonder how different things would have been if I had found the label earlier, or talked about it more, and whether we could have found commonality on that years and years earlier than we eventually did.


When I was in college, I used to think that “accidentally ending up friends with all the other queer kids in high school” was a trope that rarely actually happens - but it turns out that actually, it totally did happen to me to, it just took us all while to realize it. While we never really talked about sexuality much at the time, as nerds who were more interested in talking about anime and dungeons and dragons instead, it turns out that most of us ended up eventually coming out as some form of ace, lesbian, or other queer identities - turns out that may have been another one of the reasons we never wanted to talk about boys back then!




Q: Are your family and friends accepting?


I’ve been personally very fortunate in that my family and friends have been very accepting, if maybe a little confused at first. I think it helps that I had multiple queer relatives and friends who came out long before I even started questioning, who really paved the way on getting people to open up to new attitudes, so by the time that I started coming out most of my family and peers were already very open to general LGBTQ issues, and from there it’s not such a huge step to accept asexuality as well.


My family in particular has been great - they often send me links to any ace articles or mentions of asexuality in TV other things that they happen to run across. A few years ago, when hearing about asexuality was more rare, my mom happened to hear a radio presenter mention the word asexuality, and was so excited that she couldn’t wait until she got all the way home, and pulled over to call me and tell me what she heard and which show it was so I could go look it up. 




Q: To wrap up the conversation, do you have any other tips or recommendations for people coming to terms with their ace identities?


One of the first recommendations I want to make is finding ways to connect with other aces as much as possible! Whether it’s finding a local meetup group (try starting with aces and aros’ group directory or meetup.com, or just googling “asexuality [your city]”), joining an online community, or even just reading the writing of other ace blogs and articles. Having people to actively speak to and interact with and bounce idea off is an incredibly important part of identity and community formation, and provides a level of support that I didn’t even know I was missing until I found it.


Also, for those who might be questioning or just generally coming to terms with their ace identity: Instead of focusing on whether you fit into any  “definitions”, I recommend instead reading the writing of all sorts of different aces, and seeing which ones - if any - resonate with you. Check out ace subcommunities like aromantic aces and romantic aces, grey-aces and demisexuals, sex repulsed or sex-favourable aces, ace POC and disabled aces and older aces and all sorts of other groups; Sometimes finding niche ace subcommunities of people with experiences closest to yours may provide more direct support than more general spaces can. While some of the new vocabulary can be daunting at first, having new words and ways to talk about your experiences may also make it easier to express your specific experiences and find people with similar ones. 


In general, we in ace communities are big fans of the idea of terms like “Asexual” being tools, not boxes - in the end, what matters most is whether it’s useful for you.


At the end of the day, the ace community is all about being a coalition of people who joined together because there was no places for us in other pre-existing sexual identity/orientation concepts; while we may have taken paths to get here, what connects us are our many shared feelings and experiences.




Q: Thanks again for being on the show today. Can you let the listeners know where to find more about you or resources in our local area? 


https://nextstepcake.wordpress.com/

www.asexualitysf.org

Appreciate your time today and I learned a lot, hopefully others will have learned a bit more about this often less-represented identity. 


Closing off as always. Deep breathe in, deep breathe out, take care. 


Other useful links:

https://acesandaros.org/

https://aceweek.org/

https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/a-carnival-of-aces-masterpost/


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