By Emelia W.
PLEASE NOTE: USGA seeks to create a respectful dialogue that encompasses multiple view points on the topics of faith and sexuality. The views and opinions of the following article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect USGA’s official policy or position.
I’ve been out to myself as belonging to the asexual spectrum for about a year now and I’ve noticed that people, both friends and strangers, both queer* and straight, seem to have a hard time grasping an understanding of exactly what asexuality is. Before starting, I would like to note that it is perfectly normal to be curious about asexuality because I understand that having sexual attraction is seen as such a core part of love for a romantic partner and that a lack of sexual attraction is difficult to comprehend. As such, as long as you have the consent of your conversational partner, it is okay to ask some questions and try to get a better understanding of how they see relationships. However this article is just to act as a word of caution because even though some comments can be well intentioned, they can be understood as demeaning, invasive, or hurtful.
Before beginning, let’s explain the basics. Within the spectrum of asexuality, how a person identifies relates to their variation on sexuality and romantic attraction. First, on sexuality, asexuality is defined as “the lack of sexual attraction to anyone or low or absent interest in sexual activity.” But there are sub-identities. This can include greysexuality, where people “experience sexual attraction very rarely, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable”, and demisexuality, where someone “may experience secondary sexual attraction after a close emotional connection has already formed”. It’s also probably worth noting that within asexual sexuality there is sex-positive/indifferent and sex-repulsed (here people disagree on what sex-positive means so I will just go with the way I’ve heard it). Sex-repulsed just means that an asexual is repulsed by the idea of having sex while sex-positive/indifferent just means that they don’t prefer sex but are not repulsed, so they are just indifferent about having it.
Next, people can also differ in their orientation of romantic attraction. Here someone can identify as aromantic, or lacking in romantic attraction towards anyone, or they can only have a romantic attraction just as someone else would have sexual attraction (biromantic, heteroromantic, homoromantic, demiromantic etc.). So for example I identify as asexual, indifferent, and biromantic. This means I have no particular interest in engaging in sexual activity of any kind but I have no qualms about dating and the regular activities it entails like holding hands or kissing.
People may differ on how they feel, but I think some honest questions are good because even though the answer is obvious to me, I can see why it wouldn’t be for others. For example, “I don’t understand, how does that work for you” and “how does this affect how you date” and “how did you know you were asexual?” I think these are all relatively ok. However, there are some comments and questions I’ve received that are not.
Things that are not okay:
- “I don’t believe asexuality is a thing. I mean, how do you know that you just haven’t met someone you would be sexually attracted to yet?” I don’t know. If you say you’re straight, how do you know you’re not homosexual and just haven’t met the right person yet?
- “It must be just a lack of hormones or something right?” No. Research shows that asexuality is not a result of any physical imbalance. Please don’t imply that what I have is some sort of disorder.
- “How can you have a relationship with anyone if you don’t feel sexual attraction?” There are many facets to relationships; sexual attraction is not the only way to love someone.
- “Oh my goodness I feel so sorry for you. That must be awful.” I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t think I have to have intercourse to have a fulfilling life.
- “Maybe you should see a psychiatrist.” ”Are you sure it wasn’t some trauma you faced when you were younger or something?” No, it wasn’t. This question is wildly inappropriate and invasive to ask anyone. Please don’t do it.
- “If you’re not going to have intercourse, what are you going to do to have kids?” Adoption? Also, maybe don’t assume that all people want kids.
- “I mean it’s ok for you, but I’m glad I’m not asexual. That would be the worst” ????????
- “You’re asexual? Isn’t that the thing that plants do? Does that mean you reproduce with yourself?” Obviously no. Please use common sense.
- “A in LGBTQIA+ stands for allies not asexuals.” People can feel differently about this one, but I think it feels like erasure when people say this. Especially since I think the term LGBTQIA+ is supposed to be about giving recognition and awareness to the queer community, and that supporting the queer community and being a part of the queer community are two different things. It sucks enough not to be recognized as existing by society as a whole; it sucks more to be erased from the queer community too.
- “Being asexual isn’t as difficult as being gay in our society—you’re nothing.” (I was actually told this, yes) First of all, speaking to my experience of the trials of being asexual is not to deny the trials of others of different sexualities. It is literally just me talking about my experiences. Second, it is not a competition of who is worse off. Please do not act as if the group that wins at being discriminated against the most is the only one that has the right to be upset about it.
- “This whole thing is just a fad.” “Oh, you will change how you feel eventually. It’s just a phase.” “You’re just saying that because being queer is popular now.” Please do not say these things; please do not try to tell other people how they feel.
Being asexual can be difficult sometimes because it’s tough enough to come to a point where you question if how you feel about relationships is an anomaly and you’re just weird, or if it is something experienced by others, but it’s even tougher when others question your feelings on the matter. Still, ultimately my asexuality is a cherished part of my identity, and just like other people wouldn’t change being straight or gay, I wouldn’t change being asexual. Ever since I found out that asexuality was a recognized orientation and other people feel as I do, I’ve felt more secure and confident in my identity and less concerned about fitting ideas of what others think I should be. Overall I’m happy the way I am, happy to be able to accept myself, and I am hopeful that I’ll be able to help others accept me too.
*When I say queer, I use this as an unofficial umbrella term even though I recognize that not everyone agrees (and justifiably) with this use of the word.