The 5 Worst Things About Being Asexual
It’s hard for me to gauge how much being asexual has impacted my life - I have never known what it’s like to not be asexual, and I never will. It’s something I’m still learning to navigate. But there are a couple of obvious ways that my asexuality has impacted my life for the worse. My experiences aren’t universal at all - nor would I expect them to be - but over the course of my life, I’ve struggled with five major things:
1. Our whole society is built on sexuality
Sexuality is everywhere. From a young age, you’re taught that the expected life path is to fall in love with someone and have sex and kids with them. As soon as kids are old enough to talk, we ask them about crushes and marriage. Our ideas of romantic love and sex are so deeply intertwined, we have no concept of love without sex as anything but sad. The world is built for couples. “Losing your virginity” is an important rite of passage. We sell everything from music to hamburgers with sex. Finding out that you’re asexual and can’t buy into any of that is like finding out that everyone else can see a color that you can’t.
2. You have to figure everything out for yourself
I went to a pretty progressive school, and we learned about heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, and trans people. No asexuals. I took classes on gender theory and sexuality in university, and we learned about gender identity, queer people, homosexuality and intersex people. No asexuals. I took training in how to counsel queer kids, and we learned about two-spirits, nonbinary kids, genderfluid kids, gay kids and trans kids. No asexuals. Every asexual I know had to figure out their sexuality by themselves, as an adult, with help from the internet. In mainstream sex and gender education, we don’t exist.
3. There’s virtually no ace representation out there
There are almost no ace characters in mainstream television shows, movies, video games or books.
Having representation in media matters; it helps kids figure out their identity, it helps educate people, and it helps show the world that, hey, we exist, and we’re pretty cool people. The few ace characters that do exist almost inevitably go through a “redemption” arc, where we find out that, deep down, they really do like sex and they were just too shy and awkward to admit it! That just perpetuates stereotypes about asexuals being repressed and damaged, and leaves us worse off than before.
4. It’s hard to “come out” as something people don’t understand
People have a really, really hard time wrapping their heads around asexuality. Older people, for the most part, have never heard of asexuality and don’t understand it. A lot of people just assume you’re traumatized or have some kind of hormone imbalance. Some people assume you’re repressed, uptight, or deeply religious. Many “out” asexual activists are told that they haven’t met the right person yet, that they haven’t had the right sex yet, or most horrifyingly of all, that they need to be “corrected”, often with forced sex. The public at large does not understand asexuality as a valid sexual orientation, and navigating romantic relationships and dating as a romantic asexual is an endless minefield.
5. The LGBTQ+ community doesn’t want us
I grew up confused and panicked about my sexuality. Like many asexuals, I spent a lot of years quietly repressed, enduring sexual experiences I didn’t want in an effort to blend in. I can’t be honest about my sexuality with family and friends. I’ve had friends cut off contact after finding out about me. I was forcibly outed by a “friend” in high school, and bullied relentlessly for it. I thought I found a group of people with some common experiences - not all, by any stretch, but some - in the LGBTQ+ community. And yet some of the harshest things I’ve ever heard about asexuals have come from that community. I’ve seen LGBTQ+ blogs tear into asexuals as “fake”, “a fad”, “people with medical problems” or “straight people looking for attention”. I have been told several times that the A in LGBTQIA should stand for ‘Ally’ and not ‘Asexual’. I am too ashamed to wear or carry an asexual flag at Pride, and I’m too nervous to volunteer my services as a trained asexual mental health worker to local LGBTQ+ organizations, for fear that they don’t want asexuals around. I understand that this is nowhere near the level of oppression and shame that other queer identities face, but it still leaves me feeling a little bit adrift, without anyone to connect to.