by Nicole Cahlander
In the wake of Asexual Awareness Week, which was October 26th — November 1st, I want to share my personal experience with asexuality and how awareness, or lack thereof, has impacted me greatly.
When learning about asexuality, it is important to first establish that one’s sexual orientation is not the same as their romantic orientation. Before I knew more about my sexuality, this is what always threw me. I mean, I knew that I liked certain people. If I felt desire, that must have meant I had a sexuality. If I thought Zac Efron was cute in High School Musical, that meant that I was “normal.” Right?
As my friends and I grew older, I began to realize that I don’t share the same sexual predilections as most people I knew. Sure, I had an active libido; it just wasn’t directed at anyone in particular. In fact, when I tried applying that desire for sexual stimulation to someone, regardless of their sex or gender, the idea kind of repulsed me.
It was with this realization that I began to worry. I was already having a hard enough time in high school. The weight of this new awareness that I was somehow different from how I perceived everyone else – in what I thought was a negative way – settled on my mental state heavily. What if something was wrong with me?
I spent a long time feeling broken and confused. Before learning about asexuality, the things I felt seemed unnatural and wordless; I could put no name to my emotions, and because of this, I thought there was no one else like me. And when I finally did hear about asexuality, I thought: no, that can’t be me. Because even though I thought I was different, I didn’t want to think I was that different.
Herein lies the problem of the lack of awareness of asexuality in our society. I had finally found an established group of people I could find support in, and I refused it. I cannot speak for everyone who identifies themselves on the asexual spectrum, but I know from myself and a few others I’ve met since that the absence of a wider social consciousness makes some people hesitant to place themselves in the asexual community. It’s problematic enough that a large majority of people don’t know what asexuality is; it is even worse when they reject the legitimacy of it, when they make you doubt if you can ever belong somewhere. And when people tell you that “asexuality requires medical treatment,” that you’re just trying to be a “special snowflake,” or when people try to shove porn at you or try to seduce you because they doubt the authenticity of your orientation — well, to be frank, it’s pretty damn shitty.
In my opinion, sexual orientation should not define someone. It validates your perception of who you are, but it does not dictate your life. Even so, I think it is crucial for people to be aware of all sexualities, because being able to identify with a larger group as something real and something shared by many people is incredibly empowering and meaningful. We need awareness because it is unfair to make people go through life thinking they’re wrong or broken, to make assumptions without knowing what they are or telling them what they are isn’t real.
It took me a long time to realize that I am not broken. I can only hope you know that no matter what, you are not broken either.
More on asexuality: http://www.asexuality.org/home/overview.html
More on the ace spectrum: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/asexual-spectrum_n_3428710.html