Coming Out Ace(s)

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About Ace Week (aceweek.org)

A little over a year ago, I did an interview on the Asexual Artists website where I talked about my work and how my asexuality influences my life. It was kind of my public coming-out as an asexual, although many of my friends had known for a while. I recall that I wanted to write more about my asexuality after that interview came out, but it was published the same month that I got offered my teaching job and had to scramble to get here to Wisconsin, so maybe I forgot about taking care of that writing in the midst of all the other craziness I was going through. With this being Ace Week (formerly Asexual Awareness Week), I figure now is a good time for me to finally write more about my asexuality and how I got to this point in my life.

Spending so many of my early years in the 1980’s meant that I was constantly exposed to open homophobia, especially among other kids my age. I was embarrassingly na├»ve about what sex even was back then; it didn’t help that my friends found the stash of old Playboy magazines my father kept in the garage, then took them out in the backyard and ogled them behind a fence. I can still remember looking at the centerfolds as my friends whooped and hollered, and thinking to myself, “What’s the big deal? They’re just pictures of naked women.”

That should have been very prescient about how I’d eventually identify as asexual, but the obvious problem there was that I didn’t even have the concepts, let alone the language, for what I was feeling. More to the point, thanks to the smaller and larger cultures I inhabited back then, I was still experiencing strong pressures to conform to the most common forms of gender and sexual orientation, not only because everyone around me was saying that those were “normal” (and I was frequently a target of scorn from everyone else around me when they perceived I wasn’t “normal” in some way), but because my father was actively shaping me to be the person he thought I should be, which only messed me up all the more.

Even before I began to conceive of my own gender and sexual identity, I still became absorbed with the politics of sexual orientation, because even when my perceptions of non-heterosexuals were still based on a lot of ignorance, I didn’t think it was right that Ohio (at the time) still had laws on the books that said people could go to prison for engaging in same-gender sexual activity. That didn’t command my attention as much as issues relating to race and abortion did, but it was still a significant part of my early political blossoming.

I was sixteen years old when I first began to identify as bisexual, but I didn’t tell very many people , especially because I didn’t want news of that getting back to my father. It wasn’t until I first went to Antioch College that I was really able to explore my identity, and talk with others like me, and that may be part of the reason why Yellow Springs still feels like the most welcoming place I’ve ever lived. I didn’t realize I was a woman for a few more years, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Even after my time at Antioch, I still hadn’t gotten to experience consensual sex, and I let that fact become more of an issue for me than I should have. Kind of like when my friends were making a big deal out of the naked women in those issues of Playboy they stole from the garage, I built up this idea of what sex with other people would be like in my head, and I bought into the hype, even as I was kind of questioning why I was thinking that way. Maybe the fact that I had a baseline for how sexual release felt through playing with myself was what messed me up, because I kept hearing all these messages from friends and the larger cultures around me about how much better sex with someone else was.

When I finally had consensual sex many years later, it wound up being one of the most underwhelming experiences of my life. I did experience a day or two of relief at getting something crossed off my proverbial bucket list, but then I spiraled into weeks of existential crisis as I fought to reconcile this idea I’d built up in my head of what those experiences would be, with what had actually happened to me. I was going through a lot of other issues at the time, so I decided that the best thing I could do was put off thinking about my sexual experiences until I was in a better frame of mind to give them the attention they needed.

A few years later, when I finally began to understand the spectrum of gender, I not only started to identify as pansexual, but I applied that identity to myself retroactively. This was around the time that I was first exposed to the concept of asexual orientation, and I did feel some amount of pull in that direction, but I dismissed that because I was still experiencing some desire for sexual activity there, especially as I was experimenting more with kink and fetish (where I’d always had a great deal of sexual energy).

Over the course of the next couple of years — I think around 2014-2015, but it could have been earlier — I finally began to understand that not only was I not experiencing sexual attraction towards people, but that I never really did. I had a desire for sex, even after my first couple of experiences had been so disappointing, but that was far different from sexual attraction. I’d become a much more private person in that time, and so there really weren’t that many people close to me who I came out to, but I’ve been identifying as asexual for close to five years now. Since my romantic needs are being met right now — and I feel like I’ll remain panromantic through the rest of my life — I didn’t feel any real need to “come out” as an asexual like I am right now.

There it is, I guess. I’m a panromantic asexual, and really, that’s all I ever have been, even back when I lacked the words to describe myself accurately. Apart from this being Ace Week, I’m not sure what else is compelling me to write about this now, but I suppose it’s better that I have it out here now. Maybe this blog about my journey and experiences will help others, but really, my main hope right now is that I can continue to grow now and understand myself even better.

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