Let me tell you what it’s been like being asexual.
When you’re twelve or so, and in a classroom full of tittering preteens, you finally get an explanation of what this ‘sex’ stuff actually is. At last, the elusive knowledge of where babies come from! But that’s also when you start to think about your sexual future. Will you do this sex stuff one day? It sounded like you wouldn’t have a choice—it was presented as something that everyone does.
Since your classroom happens to be in a building attached to a Church, you only learn about heterosexual sex that day, and the only real teaching apart from what it is is that you aren’t supposed to do it until you’re married.
Okay, you think, because you are twelve, and you ardently do not care.
When you’re thirteen or so, and at a sleepover, a girl tells a joke. “What do you call a girl who doesn’t masturbate?”
“I don’t know.”
And the people around you laugh, but you don’t, because now you wonder what it is that you missed. You didn’t get the joke.
When you’re fourteen or so, and among friends, a boy talks about what he did in the restroom with a girl. You listen because you’re a little curious. But others are awed.
You disapprove, because you’re in eighth grade for crying out loud, why would you do something so stupidly risky? Was it really so fun to be worth it?
You tell yourself that they’re just stupid, but then you wonder why your friends seem so fascinated by this boy’s vaguely uncomfortable descriptions.
When you’re fifteen or so, you start high school, and the social signs are telling you the time has arrived to join the dating scene. You’ve got better things to do, but when a boy surprises you with a clumsy but well-intended text asking you out, you give it consideration. You don’t really know this kid, but you’re curious about dating and don’t want to be that forever alone person. You accept.
You don’t hate dating, but it doesn’t really do much for you. After a little while, you’ve more or less forgotten that there’s someone you call your boyfriend. When someone makes a passing remark about your presumed sexual relations, you are shocked by the wave of revulsion that smacks into you at the very suggestion. Never in a million years, you think vehemently, and then you marvel at how you managed to ‘date’ the same person for four months without the thought of sex with them ever crossing your mind.
He tries to kiss you. You don’t want to. You know this isn’t going to work out. You break it off.
You feel relieved and liberated.
When you’re sixteen or so, you’re happily single. You love your friends dearly, your best friend most of all. You love her far more than you ever…well, you never really loved your ex. You wonder if you might be gay for her, but you don’t want to kiss her or anything, just squish her in a big hug on a daily basis to let her know you love her and put a smile on her face.
You have a fleeting crush on a boy. You get over it, thankful it never amounted to anything, because what were you thinking ew! Then you have another one, similar but different, and thank goodness that never happened either because it would have been so awkward. You start to wonder if you’re just not cut out for dating, or maybe you’re gay. You don’t know how to feel about that. It’d be so much simpler and easier if you were just normal.
When you’re seventeen or so, you make a new friend, a really pleasant guy. You are just friends, and that is perfect. It lasts about five months, and then one of your friends pulls him aside and hints heavily that he ought to ask you out.
He does. You have no compunctions about saying yes, because you like him a lot, and he’s taking you to see the new Hobbit movie even though he’s not a fan and he had to watch twelve hours of movies in preparation for this date so that he’d be able to understand your interest.
You have a great time, and so does he.
About a month later, he kisses you. It was your first kiss, exciting for the seventeen years of buildup and pleasant for having happened on acceptable terms with a more-than-acceptable person.
In the following months, neither of you brings up the topic of sex. After all, you’re both to be found in the pews on Sunday mornings. That’s fine by you. More than fine, actually. The idea of sex frightens you, which you attribute to your inexperience. You would only ever consider attempting it with someone you really trusted, on level with a spouse.
When you’re eighteen or so, and at a sleepover, a girl cuddles casually with you as you talk in the hushed tones reserved for the hours after midnight. She laments the lack of available girls at your school.
You mention that you would date a girl. You instantly have everyone’s attention.
“Is there something you want to tell us?” your cuddle-buddy asks.
You say again that you’d date a girl. Not now, of course, because you have a boyfriend, but yeah, you’d have no problem with it. You probably wouldn’t sleep with a girl, but then you really don’t like the idea of sleeping with a boy either. So you don’t really care about the configuration of genitals you don’t intend to see. You just want the company of some lovely dork who will marathon Lord of the Rings with you and frequent the city’s best ice cream parlors.
Because your cuddle-buddy is a member of the queer community, she’s much more informed about sexualities and designations and spectrums than you are. She suggests “panromantic asexual” and you understand both of those terms. You’d seen them before, but never really thought you qualified. Hearing her say it makes it somehow more concrete.
You accept that you are panromantic asexual. You feel so light now that a couple of your closest friends know and accept you as you are.
You tell your mom a little while later on a whim. You regret it because she doesn’t even bother listening to you and doesn’t respect your trust. You hear her the next day telling your sister about how you said you might be a lesbian, and you’re so frustrated with her you want to hit something.
You decide not to tell anyone else. Your dad is pretty homophobic—actually, that’d be most of the adults in your family—and you have no idea how your boyfriend would take it. Your peers might not be welcoming or understanding—you just don’t know. You realize that you are sort of in a closet.
You start a blog on Tumblr and blog about your problems #ace #asexual #lgbtqa
You spend way too much time on the internet, looking for the magical solution for coming out to the rest of your loved ones. But since you don’t actually have any intention of coming out in the near future, you know you’re wasting your time.
Somehow your disinterest in sex has moved to occupy the forefront of your mind, not because it requires lots of attention in order to comprehend, but because it makes you different, and that is distracting.
One day, while you’re reading fanfiction, you come across an explicitly asexual character, and you realize that this is a first. You cannot think of a single time in your entire life up to this point when you had seen an explicitly asexual character, and that surprises you. Then it bothers you. Maybe you could have avoided a couple years of uncertainty and anxiety if you had been able to identify in yourself the familiar characteristics of another asexual.
You realize you don’t know anyone else in your life who’s asexual.
That’s a sobering, isolating realization.
When you’re nineteen or so, you presumably go to college. You start trying to navigate life with some semblance of independence. You probably feel a little more secure in how you identify yourself. You might even be all the way out of the closet.
Or at least that’s what eighteen-year-old you hopes.