Tuesday, July 6, 2010

5 Years! Count 'Em! Five!

It was Spring of 2005 when I first started to question my sexuality in earnest, coming to the conclusion that I was asexual. So since it's been five years (a weighty number, I guess) I thought I'd write a bit about how my attitudes have changed since then. I don't remember the exact moment when I realized I was ace, but I think that if I really reach for it, I can remember the exact moment I realized I was not the same as heterosexuals. I think I was in my infinitesimally small dorm room, oddly situated in the most beautiful neighborhood I'd ever seen: Chelsea, London. A guy had asked me out (I think my friends were more excited than I was) and I found my thoughts wandering to: "Would I ever want to have sex with him?" My answer was an emphatic "no". If I'd just stopped there, I wouldn't have dug up anything unusual. But I continued on with, "Who would I have sex with?" Away from my familiar routine, I felt free to answer: No one. At that moment, I had a realization. It wasn't that I was asexual (yet), but that I hadn't been separating sex in practice from sex in theory. Sex in theory sounded well and good, something I would do when I was "in love" with someone (which still hasn't happened). But sex in practice was something I never had any interest in. And in that moment, I knew that meeting "the right guy" wouldn't change that.

Since then I'm pretty sure I've learned countless things, including:
  • I don't have to engage in any sexual or romantic activity that I'm not comfortable with just to prove my orientation.
  • And that I was a normal asexual, not a "failed" heterosexual.
  • It doesn't matter when your first date or first kiss is, if they ever happen at all. Same with losing your virginity.
  • Cake makes everyone feel more welcome.
  • The gender binary is silly, and some people fall outside of it.
  • A lot of people are really ignorant, but some are surprisingly open-minded.
  • Asexuality has a long history, from Hippolytus to Kinsey's "X"s and beyond.
  • The Doctor, whose name is not "Doctor Who", travels in a police box and this is the image you should use as your internet icon or avatar.
  • Being married, or in a romantic relationship, is not an instant cure for loneliness. Plenty of people feel alone, regardless of orientation, and being asexual doesn't mean you'll be lonely.
  • Indiepop is oddly asexual.
  • To question everything. I'd like to think this will be a good thing in the long run.
  • Heteronormativity is a problem.
  • Community is one of the most important things to me in life.
  • The language we use to talk about sex and romance, from "just friends" to "in a relationship", could do with some updating.
  • It's okay to not be "in love" with anyone. And the love I do feel is just as valid as romantic love is.
Whether you came out as asexual yesterday or 20 years ago, I want to ask...what have you learned? And if you're not asexual (or if you like this question better), what are some of the most important things you've learned in the past 5 years?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, it describes my experience very closely.

I answered the question here: http://tsemoana.livejournal.com/14236.html

nekobawt said...

happy ace-iversary!

Lanafactrix said...

Oh my goodness, I've learned so much in the last five years. I couldn't possibly write it all down. But how's this for starters: nobody's thinking about me, so I shouldn't be self-conscious about going out and living my life however I damn well please.

Anonymous said...

I've known about my asexuality (connecting it with the term, that is) for a year now. Probably the most important thing I've learned is the danger of trying to place someone within pre-constructed labels and the harm that often comes along living in a heteronormative world, while identifying as a minority. There are so many different kinds of sexualities, not just three. I wish people would wake up to that fact and stop assuming I am this or that.

Many of the things you listed make rational sense to me but I still find it hard to accept my asexuality. I feel as if my worth is still often measured (by others) by my sexuality and by my sexual experiences (or lack of). But perhaps in four years, I'll feel better about all of this.

Ily said...

Tsemoana-- Aww, your post made me smile! Thanks for making a response :-)

Nekobawt, thanks! Now I'm curious what the exact day was-- I could probably get pretty close by looking in my journal from that time.

Lanafactrix, I really like that, it's definitely something I try to repeat to myself...and I think it leads into Anonymous's comment pretty well. Don't get me wrong, accepting asexuality, or any other "unusual" thing about yourself, can be damn hard. And it's a process, and for me, it's part of a larger process of learning to look for the input that matters and ignoring the rest. It's convincing yourself that worth comes from within, that's the hard part. Society measures peoples' worth in some pretty dumb ways, like the way you look and how much money you make. And what boggles my mind is the fact that you can never win in that system, because there's always more money to be made, more ways to change your appearance, and more sexual experiences to have. It's crazy!

Anonymous said...

Happy ace-iversary, Ily :)

It's my fifth as well.

I've learned it's not always a good idea to come out to someone. I find that people are more likely to believe I'm ace if they find it out for themselves rather than if I tell them directly.

I've also learned it's good to celebrate with cake. Early and often.

Ily said...

The second Anon. comment made me realize that I forgot an important lesson: Don't talk about asexuality to drunk people!

And congrats to you, too! *eats cake*

Level Best said...

I can't look back and reflect on the past five years of my asexual awareness, because I didn't know that asexuality existed until a few months ago, when I observed a very informative exchange on Pandagon that was participated in by several asexuals. And I'm probably as old as several of you added together! I felt a swelling in my chest and almost light-headed when I read their comments; you see, up until that point,I regarded myself as a sexually damaged human being who was nonetheless very functional in other areas (education, care-giving, holding a job, being a good daughter/friend/pet owner). In large part I think this is because I came to adolescence in the 1960's and to adulthood in the 1970's, which was a time in which op-ed's and books unabashedly declared that "the only perversion is celibacy!" Honestly, the sexual revolution was so pervasive that this message was all over the place. I am learning from you and other blogger, and this process is tremendously healing. :) Bless you all!

Ily said...

You know, it's almost scary how many asexuals learn about asexuality in completely random ways, regardless of age. I think I originally found out about it through someone's profile on Livejournal. Had that person not had the information there, it could have been many more years before I found out about asexuality...who knows? It's freaky. I'm glad you finally found us, Level Best!

jenavira said...

Thank you so much for this post. I discovered the term "asexuality" just a couple of years ago, and have been comfortable applying it to myself for about the past year. Descriptions like yours make me more comfortable all the time -- it's so hard to define yourself with a lack of something, particularly something that no one seems to describe very well.

Identifying myself as asexual has made me so much more comfortable with myself, though. I no longer feel -- as you say -- like a "failed" heterosexual, but like a person with my own preferences. I know better what I want out of my own life and my own relationships. And while I've always felt that binaries are a terrible way to describe human experience, finally having a conversation with another friend who's also asexual about trying to define your sexuality on a two- or three-dimensional grid was an absolute revelation to me.

Ily said...

You're welcome! That's why I think it's so important that we get our stories out there.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question. I can relate to much of what Level Best is writing.

I have learned the word asexual within the last ~½ year.

I have started to see my own behaviour in a new light.

I have felt more like home (released?) as I coincidently read a few short texts about asexuality in my native language.

I have learned that there are actually people who are open about this modern tabu. Forum discussions, blogs, more for me to discover.....

Personally I am not yet 100 % sure that it is the right "label" for me, nor am I ready to be 100 % open about it (I think I'll start out one day by open an account and answer with an online indentity) - Yes, during more than a decade I've learned how to hide my lack of sexual experiences behind ambiguous snappy comebacks. Finally it seems that there is an other way to continue my journey than just hiding.

And I have learned an other new word today: Heteronormative.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts with the rest of the world!

Anonymous said...

I used to think only adults wanted sex and it was little girls who wanted to hold hands and hug. So I always just assumed I was an immature little kid as far as relationships went. I knew if I ever got a boyfriend one day or any guys I like (most I like being ALOT older than me) they'd laugh at me and not want me because I was so immature. Now I know there's nothing wrong with me and if any guy thought I was immature and scared to grow up I could tell them proudly that I was asexual instead.