Asexuality Awareness Week
I’ve always been weird. I remember my parents being concerned because I dressed so much like a boy. “Don’t you want to look attractive?” they would say, and I would think “Why on Earth would I want to look attractive? I don’t want to attract anybody.”
At university, I was briefly locked in a rivalry with another girl over the affections of a boy with lovely, long, coal black wavy hair. Eventually, because he apparently didn’t really have a preference, he told us that he would go out with whoever would have sex with him that night. I could see no point in that and slept alone. He went out with my rival, and I was briefly angry about the shallow and unfair nature of his selection criteria. But a couple of months later he cut his hair and I realized he’d never been much of a catch anyway.
In my fourth year at university – when I was doing a Masters degree in the Cult of the Horse in Early Anglo Saxon England – I had a conversion experience and became a Christian. If I thought about sex after this, it was simply to assume that my total disinterest in sleeping with anyone was a case of natural virtue. But really, I didn’t think about it. I was busy and happily employed thinking about the Saxons, playing AD&D, listening to Prog Rock and writing my first novel, and I didn’t have any time for or interest in all that. It didn’t seem strange to me at all that I didn’t want to have sex with anyone. I didn’t feel I was missing out. My life was full and lacked nothing.
It wasn’t until I was out of university, settled in London and established in my first job that I began to feel that perhaps I was doomed to be alone for the rest of my life. They said that if you didn’t have a boyfriend in university, you never would. And although I still had no desire to sleep with anyone, I started to feel very much that I would like to have someone to love – someone I could settle down with and share the rest of my life with, in sickness and in health. I prayed that God would bring the right person into my life, resigned it to Him, on the understanding that if He chose for me to be single and celibate all my life, I would accept that with good grace, and about a month later I met the man who was to become my husband.
Because I had no notion that anything like asexuality existed, I naturally assumed that when I got married my sex drive would kick in and of course I would want my husband. I loved him very much, and I was delighted and disbelieving and overwhelmed by the fact that he loved me back. It stood to reason that if sex was a basic drive for every human, I would have it too.
But I didn’t. And now that I was married I went from being ‘virtuous’ to being ‘frigid’. That wasn’t a nice thing. I had to face the fact that if sex was a basic drive for every human, then I must not be human.
I had also struggled with my gender when I was growing up. For a long time I thought I was transgender. I wanted to be a boy. I had always found m/m stories hot, and m/f stories skeevy. So I thought “Perhaps I don’t want sex because I’m not the right sex myself? Perhaps what I want is to be male so I can have the kind of sex I find it hot thinking about?
When I found the slash and m/m writing community, I discovered that there’s a name for that, and it is ‘girlfag’. So for a while I thought ‘maybe that’s what I am.’
But it seemed out of true to ascribe myself an identity where sex was central, when the truth was that for me sex has always been so peripheral that most of the time I forget it’s a factor at all. I am always, continually surprised and put off by the number of ways people will find to make a conversation about sex when it wasn’t, and that just derails from the genuinely interesting thing you were trying to talk about instead.
So the more I thought about that, the less right it seemed.
It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I came across a mention of asexuality. I no longer remember where, but I followed it to AVEN and I found out that there was a community of other people who would also genuinely rather have chocolate than sex. When I read their discussion boards, I discovered that these were people who thought the same way I did – people who also forgot sex, who didn’t find it particularly interesting. People who looked at human interaction and zeroed in on all the other things that make us human.
At first I wondered if this too was a label that would fit less well the more I thought about it, but it hasn’t been that way. The more I’ve reflected on myself and my childhood, on the way I interact with the world now, on the basic thought processes of my mind, the more I’ve found that the label fits. It explains things. Finally, after 49 years of feeling that there was not a box for me – that I was inhuman, incomplete, badly made, wrong, frigid and useless – I’ve found that no. I’m actually just queer.
I find it typical of myself that I should be queer in a way that isn’t universally considered ‘properly’ queer – that I should be queer in an invisible way. After a lifetime of being weird, after searching for a label that was so carefully hidden that it took me half a century to find it, it’s fitting that the label I found is still relatively unknown. I’m not getting into whether we should be considered part of the queer community or not. After having lived so many years thinking I was uniquely broken, it’s revelation enough for me to know that an Ace community exists and that I’m actually not the only one in the world after all.
This week is asexual awareness week, so I am making this post to say that I am aware I am asexual, and I’m very glad about that.
We are apparently 1% of the population, which means there are as many of us as there are redheads in the world. That’s… actually quite a few. If any of this sounds at all familiar to you, I can do no better for you than to pass you over to AVEN where you too can find out you’re not alone. If you’ve felt peculiar all this time and you’ve tried to find out whether you were some desultory version of gay or trans or one of those better known labels, but they’ve never quite fitted either, you may be looking for this very label yourself. (Or one of the others on the asexual spectrum, such as grey-a, demisexual or aromantic.) Go and find out! You may actually, finally have come home.
Look! We even have a flag 🙂