Coming to Terms with My Asexuality
Before I embarked on writing this, I had hit a bit of a snag. My identity as an asexual is something I hadn’t talked about much in my early years of acceptance, but as I got older I realized that it’s important and necessary for me to be open. I reached out to peers who are familiar enough with my story to offer suggestions for my delivery. The responses were interesting, but many of them shared the same sentiment, telling the truth, my full truth. Some of it is comical, but some of it is also frustrating and I feel like I’m constantly in limbo when it comes to living in this identity. Breaking down the identity, Dictionary.com defines “asexual” or “asexuality” as a person being “free from sexual desires or sexuality”. I subscribe to the notion that there can be many variations within an identity or behavior, asexuality not excluded. I don’t exactly fit the textbook definition of the mold, but coming across the term during my undergrad years was the first “AHA!” moment for me. What I initially described as disassociation now lead me to better understand my actions in past romantic and sexual encounters. in a perfect world, this “AHA!” moment would this make dating easier, and offer some clarity and guidance to how I approach and behave in relationships. Instead, I found the dating world more confusing to navigate, because even though I felt stronger in my identity, I cannot control the actions and perceptions of others. This has left me with a host of less than stellar first dates/conversation stories that serve as wonderful party icebreakers for my friends.
For many people, identifying as anything outside of the typically societal narrative is immediately taboo regardless of the environment (school, work, personal life, family, community, etc). Even though we have made some steps towards being more open sexual identities, there are some who still fear (for good reason) the backlash from family, friends and/or their community for being anything other than heterosexual. Especially within the African American community, fear of the other leads many to not talk about their identity or what they do, limiting or repressing themselves from exploration. I do not see anything wrong with how I identify or what I do, but I can see how it can be misinterpreted due to false information, false representation, and just plain ignorance. As I approach 30, I’ve noticed the subtle hints of “So, are you dating?” or “Anybody new in your life?” as a way to flush out my marriage/children timeline. As if family interactions weren’t awkward enough with today’s social and political climate, romance gets added to the mix, and often times I find the right moment to sneak off into solitude. If I can’t disappear, I find ways to just skate around the conversations about dating and romance, diverting back to my work or school life that shows I’m not just existing. I don’t believe that there is something wrong with the way I identify, but I’m aware enough that everyone, especially family, does not see it that way. Marriage and love are still placed on a high pedestal of success and happiness, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Not saying that those who chose to find and follow love are wrong either, but when I think about my own life, I feel that it would be disingenuous to myself and to my (potential) partner to force myself to display an emotion that does not feel natural to me.
When not interacting with family, I can pretty much exist in my identity in a comfortable manner, until dating comes into the mix. Think about the last time you met someone interesting and engaging, you probably thought “hmm, I might actually want to get to know this person”. Next, you started to devise ways on how to get this person’s attention, or if it’s mutual, you might already be gearing up for your first date. You’re excited, and nervous, and start considering all the things you should or should not say in order to get them to like you. Well, for me, it’s a bit different. I could say I don’t like dating and leave it at that, but it’s much more nuanced. I don’t experience that spark, or pull from most of the potential partners I encounter. Usually, if I come across someone that piques, it’s usually derived from curiosity, or comfort, or familiarity, rather than romantic/sexual desire. My friends often say “Well, you can grow to love someone”, but that doesn’t sit right with me, knowing that situation might never occur. I believe in transparency, so when I do choose to date, I find myself whipping out my scroll, so to speak, and giving people the run down because there may be periods in our interactions where that sexual/romantic attraction does not occur, however, that does not mean that there is no longer interest. I have to pad this information with reassurance because society teaches us that without the presence of these, people cannot be romantically connected, or that a relationship is hollow. Most of the time, the moment I mention being asexual, people either brush it off as me being celibate (I’m not) or sit there with a confusing look on their face. It’s hard trying to define my specific behaviors into one conversation, and more often than not, the potential partner either assumes that they can “fix” me, or their eyes gloss over. I often tell my friends that I don’t know which is harder to explain, me being asexual or me being into bdsm (not 50 Shades of Grey though), both have afforded me headaches from interested parties that lead to dead end conversations.
Growing up, I heard stories about true love, love at first sight, or just finding that one for you, but I never really related to that scenario. I always get weird looks from people when I tell them I’ve never been in love, and I don’t know if I ever will be. It’s not that I never see myself being married on in a long-term relationship, but the concept/idea of “love” isn’t a primary factor when I envision my future. I understand the emotion, but when I think about the long term, that understanding does not translate into practice. While there are some positives with me being more secure and comfortable with my identity and interests, there are still some obstacles that I’m trying to overcome or navigate as I date. I do know some asexual, actually one, individual who has been able to successfully forge a relationship with their significant other that meets both their needs. On one end, her journey, and their relationship, gives me a small bit of comfort knowing that people like us can potentially work through to find someone who understands and is willing to grow with us.