What It's Actually Like To Come Out As Asexual
Writer Amelia Ace shares her experience...
When I worked out that I was asexual - meaning that I don’t experience sexual attraction - the first person I told was my best friend. Or rather, I messaged him in a panic. I was 16 years old and up until then, I thought I was straight. The conversation went something like this:
Me: You know how you’re always joking I’m asexual because I get squeamish when you talk about sex? I think you’re right.
Him: Makes a lot of sense, to be honest.
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If only every coming out experience could be as simple as that first one. But unfortunately, unlike my sexual orientation-savvy BFF, most people I’ve come out to have only had the vaguest idea what asexuality even is.
LGBTQ+ people before me have pointed out that coming out is not a one-time event. Every time you choose to share your orientation with someone new, it’s a lottery how they’ll react. Will they be accepting, angry, or tell you they already guessed? With asexuality, there’s an even more common response: confusion.
The second person I came out to was my younger sister. I didn’t know how much she knew about asexuality, but I was hopeful she’d at least heard of it.
“Oh,” she said, “are you going to break up with your boyfriend?”
My boyfriend, who I’d been dating for months, had so far been pretty relaxed about taking it slow. The most we’d done is hold hands. “Asexuality is just about sex,” I explained, “I can still date people.”
I did break up with him, though, over the summer holidays. I explained over and over that asexual people can have romantic relationships, that I wasn’t broken or anything. I wasn’t breaking up with him because asexual people can’t date, it was just that I needed time alone to come to terms with this new realisation about myself. He was mostly quiet throughout the whole explanation. When we got back to school for the new year, we didn’t really talk.
Here’s some helpful advice for coming out as asexual: come armed with a definition, and don’t throw aromantic people (people who don’t experience romantic attraction) under the bus like I did. “Don’t worry, I’m still human, I can still fall in love” is about the worst thing you can say. Most aromantic people don’t fall in love or date, and they’re not broken or heartless.
Since then, I’ve come out as asexual to so many people that I’ve lost count. I run a YouTube dedicated to the subject, and I was the asexual rep for my university’s LGBTQ+ society, so it comes up a fair bit. The responses blur together after a while, but more often than not, coming out also requires a vocabulary lesson. I don’t blame people for not knowing what asexuality is, particularly if they’re straight, but it does get tiring, having to debunk their assumptions whenever I come out.
Still, a few responses stand out. The strangest, so far, happened when I was still in school. I was talking to a girl in the year below me, and I can’t quite remember how the subject came up – I think we must have been talking about sex. I said I found the whole idea pretty off-putting, and when she asked why I explained that I was asexual. She laughed. “Oh,” she said, “well, that will change when you get older.” I cannot stress this enough: she was younger than me.
Another memorable one happened during a house party in my first year of university, when my very tipsy flatmate pulled me over to this guy I’d never met and said, “he’s asexual too, you two should be friends.” At the time, I was seriously embarrassed. I’m not exactly a social butterfly, and it was laughable we’d get along just because neither of us experienced sexual attraction.
Recently though, when I tell someone I’m asexual, the response has just been “cool, good to know” or even “me too.” I attribute this mainly to the increased inclusion of asexuality in LGBTQ+ education, and the presence of asexual characters on shows like BoJack Horseman and Shadowhunters. Hopefully this trend will continue, and eventually coming out to somebody as asexual won’t also mean giving them a rundown on what the word means.
- Words by Amelia Ace.