Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ily's Checkered Past

I had a good friend who might have been asexual. When I was about 18 or 19, my friend declared that she wouldn't have a problem 'dying a virgin'. I said something like, "Are you CRAZY?!?!" There is a piece of folklore that you must 'lose your virginity' (I'm doing air quotes because I think it's such a dumb term to use when we're talking about asexuals and not Catholic schoolgirls) before college ends, or some sort of terrible fate will befall you. With my "OMG HELL NO" reaction, I played right into this myth and into my own internalized A-Phobia.
Yes folks, A-Phobia.
Let me give you one more scenario. I was about 20 years old at the time. Hanging out with the "Who do YOU have a crush on?" girls, I mumbled that I did not have a crush. One of these girls (a very good friend, I might add), said, "well, maybe you're asexual." My reply: "I AM NOT!!!"
Indeed, the lady doth protest too much. Hindsight's 20/20 vision tells me now that my defensiveness was really my own internalized A-Phobia. I didn't hate asexuals or hate myself. I was just trying to protect myself from the difficulties that can come from questioning your orientation. But by postponing the inevitable, I can't say I made my life any easier.
Once you realize you're asexual (or anything else, for that matter), you can't take it back. I held out as a heterosexual until I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm glad I was eventually able to take my place on the A-Team and to find others like me. Finally being honest with myself was liberating. I wish I could say that all my A-Phobia is behind me, but I know that as long as our society tells us that A-s shouldn't exist, I will continue to struggle with it. Our friend Wikipedia says:

[Internalized homophobia] may cause extreme repression of homosexual desires. In other cases, a conscious internal struggle may occur for some time, often pitting deeply held religious or social beliefs against strong sexual and emotional desires. This discordance often causes clinical depression, and the unusually high suicide rate among homosexual teenagers (up to 30% of non-heterosexual youth attempt suicide) has been attributed to this phenomenon.

I'm not trying to steal the thunder from the issue of homophobia. But I think internalized A-Phobia is just as much as problem for us as internalized homophobia is for gay folks. I think our risk for depression is just as high, and for the same reasons. I know that visions of depressed asexuals isn't good for our PR, but as our community becomes more cohesive, this is an issue that will need to be addressed. We'll need to help each other through this. When I yelled "I AM NOT!!!" being asexual seemed like a social death sentence. Now I know better. But how many of us are still assuming that it is?

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