It’s Pride month. And for some, their idea of celebrating Pride is telling asexual folks that they can’t identify as queer. Nothing says “happy pride” quite like being pushed out of your own community, right?
I first came out as asexual to my close friends when I was about fifteen years old.
While friends excitedly shared their stories of making out underneath the bleachers, I had yet to feel even an iota of desire towards anyone. Everything I’d heard about “urges” in health class sounded made up to me. When I mentioned this in passing, my (very wonderful) best friend asked me if I’d read anything about asexuality.
What he told me made sense — I just didn’t want it to. I wanted to be like everyone else. What teenager doesn’t?
I felt like I was missing out on an important experience that I was supposed to be having. So I did what I figured I should do — I went out and got myself a boyfriend. I thought if I gave it a try, maybe a switch would flip in my brain. Instead, I hated kissing him so much that I started avoiding him at school. I pretended to have colds to dissuade him, but he stopped caring.
I broke up with him a few weeks later.
Maybe it was just that particular boy, though, I thought. When I found myself developing romantic feelings towards another boy in my grade, I figured this was my best shot at becoming a “normal” teenager. If nothing else, at least I’d know what everyone else was talking about.
But as that relationship went on, I again felt pressured to keep up the charade. The sexual relationship simply felt like the cost of admission — if I wanted emotional intimacy and romance, I had to offer something in return, didn’t I? I forced it. I desperately wish I hadn’t.
This is what “normal” relationships look like, I reasoned. This is what we’re supposed to do.
Like many asexual people who enter into sexual relationships this way, I lost any sense of boundaries and autonomy. I can’t articulate — maybe because it’s too painful — what it feels like to not have ownership over your body, simply because you feel it’s owed to someone else. I didn’t want to lose my partner, and I believed that as long as I kept pretending, he would stay.
I was in that relationship for three years until I finally couldn’t do it anymore. I walked away convinced something was wrong with me.
Should I be dating women? Was gender dysphoria making it too difficult to be close to people? Was I just depressed? I thought about the passion I’d seen in movies and read about in books, the fantasies and hookups my friends described over drinks, and I felt like a piece of me was missing.
When I met my partner Ray seven years ago, I was enamored. They were funny, brilliant, generous, patient, and quickly became my favorite person on the planet. I wanted to spend every waking minute with them.
They were the first person that didn’t treat physical intimacy like the “price” I had to pay to be with them, either. They supported me through my gender transition and I was there as they grappled with chronic illness. We showed up for each other time and time again.
I was never expected to be anything but myself, even if that meant that our Netflix nights only meant chilling in the literal sense. And for the first time, I had exactly what I wanted — a partner in life in the deepest emotional sense. Three years later, our queer asses got married under a rainbow flag. We drank ourselves silly and fell asleep that night, excited for the next chapter of our lives together.
Yes, a rainbow flag. The same flag that now hangs in our living room of our gay little apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bite me.
If I’m not queer, tell me what I am.
When a group of homophobic teenagers in Plymouth, Michigan, tried to run Ray and me over when we crossed the street, what were we then? When bigots pulled over on the road to yell at us as we held hands, what was that? When I wasn’t allowed to see Ray in the hospital because it was illegal to get married and I wasn’t considered “family,” what did that mean?
When society told me time and time again that I was broken because my relationships didn’t look the way that they “should,” what is that called?
When my heart pounded through my chest because I was afraid my family would reject me, does that sound straight to you? When I search the history books for someone who loves like I do and struggles like I did, and I can’t find a single footnote, does that sound like a privilege to you? When I take pride in resisting notions of “normalcy” and revel in my transgressions, what would you say that is?
Are you suggesting I let go of the one word that ever encompassed all these feelings?
Lately there’s been a lot of conversation in the queer community about whether or not asexual people “belong.”
When I hear this, I feel sick to my stomach. I spent years feeling like handing over my body to someone else was simply the “cost of admission,” the natural consequence if I wanted to feel like I belonged, if I wanted to feel loved, if I wanted to be accepted.
I’m now being told that having sex and losing my autonomy are a prerequisite for being queer, too. After spending years being violated just to feel less broken, people in my own community are asking me to do the same if I want to be in good standing and be accepted.
Take my “queer membership card,” then. In fact, I’ll gladly set it on fire and watch it burn before I ever let someone tell me — or any other asexual person — that access to our bodies is the price we pay to be queer.
“Queer” has, for a long time, been a banner under which folks who have been marginalized because of their sexual, romantic, and gender identities could find a sense of community.
If asexual people can’t identify as queer, where should they go when they feel broken? When they’re told that they owe access to their bodies to someone to be “fixed”? When clinicians suggest they need to be “cured”? When they struggle to find anyone like them to assure them that they’re enough exactly as they are? When they grow up wondering if something is wrong with them, the same way that I did?
The fact that ace folks are met with gatekeepers, even in a community that advocates for inclusion, makes it clear that asexuality is just as stigmatized as we’ve been telling you for years.
If my story sounds familiar to you as a queer person, then you know damn well that I’m queer.
And in my years of blogging and publishing about my experiences, not a single one of you questioned if I was part of your community. If you’re doing so now only because I’ve come out as ace, I ask that you reflect on why.
I’m asking you to believe me now, and believe all asexual people when we tell you who we are. When we choose to identify as queer, we do so with intention and purpose. Asexual (and aromantic folks, too) are not a threat to you. If anything, denying us community is what’s most threatening here.
Gatekeepers exist only to reinforce the idea that people don’t belong — and if you find yourself gatekeeping, you should ask yourself who it serves. Because the moment you ask marginalized people to assimilate, forcing them to choose between their identity and their chosen family, I have to wonder what queerness even means to you.
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Sam, I think asexual counts as Queer, at least from my mainly CIS point of view, and I would even if you had not made you case so well. Don’t let self-appointed gate keepers (Don’t some of them try to say Bi is “inauthentic” as well?) tell you you don’t qualify. Fly that Rainbow Flag proudly.
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Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
Sam – Asexual is Queer, although some seem to have a problem with that.
Very well said. We should never have to be something we’re not in order to be loved. Who you are attracted to has nothing to do with whether or not you desire sex. There are many forms of intimacy. It sounds like you and your husband have found what works for you. 🙂
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Well said, as always.
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Thank you. I just got out of an hour long argument about this and I was feeling like I’m not valid and my identity is just for attention, as a cis asexual. I needed this. Thank you.
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I spent a lot of my life twisting myself to fit whatever other people wanted me to be. For a while, I got into an asexual community. And I had so many amazing asexual friends. I did all my research, to put it mildly.
And I think that being asexual definitely qualifies. I stand up for everyone from all walks of life, but asexuality is very close to my heart and I think it’s a perfectly valid sexuality!
You own that damn pride flag, man. You deserve it! 😀
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I am asexual, but my decision came after I experienced some traumas. I do not know what queer means, but I would gladly adopt and embrace the title queer if I fit in that category. I am 44, so I have had a while to think about what my sexuality is. I do not know if I would be accepted by the LGBTQ community, or other communities, but I do understand the need for belonging. I took a women’s psych course that spoke about asexuality, and the professor suggested two types of asexual origins – 1. The kind like me whose sexuality changed after a trauma or major life event, indicating sexual dysfunction rather than a preference (which made me feel sad and less belonged in the world), or 2. Those who choose to be asexual for reasons other than life stress or trauma, such as personal beliefs, cultural practices, or other non-dysfinctional reasons. What if I can be asexual for both reasons? What if I can simply be appreciated and belonged for my choice? It is not that I do not want relationships; I would welcome it but without the intercourse. I am not even sure if that makes me asexual or not. The lectures on sexuality never mentioned queer, but I am interested in what I am. I feel sort of lost in this area of sexual identity. Reading this post and these comments help me a little though. I just do not know where to go to get my answer.
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Well what i don’t like is that all aces want to be part of the queer community, In my opinion asexual cis heteroromantic persons are not really part of the community. Of course if you’re ace and queer you’re part of the queer community. I jist don’t think aces who never cared about the queer community or the problems that come with being queer should now be part of it just because they’re ace.
I have yet to see this happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but like… I’m not sure that this is pervasive enough that it warrants a full out PR campaign against asexual folks.
I struggle to see that asexual cishet folks are this widespread, infiltrating group has much of an impact on LGBTQ+ folks at all. To be honest. So I’m not sure what everyone is up in arms about at this point.
Because ultimately, by shouting those folks down loudly but not supporting queer aces like me even more loudly, you end up alienating queer aces… over boogeymen that you probably wouldn’t notice or be affected by, except in theory and on Tumblr. You know what I mean?
If someone who never realized they were trans and thought they were straight and cis til age 30, or never understood they were bi until they were in their 20s, etc can be understood to be queer even if they weren’t active allies until that point… The same should be true of cis heteromantic aces who were ignorant and oblivious and suffering in confused silence for however long, be it till age 15 or age 60. Many times people like me think at first they’re heteromantic and soon after the asexual discovery maybe realize they’re aromantic too or panromantic etc. But being heteromantic and ace can be really hard and a gateway into being way more informed about the rest of the LGBTQ+ community and a much better ally. If someone is homophobic while being a cis, heteroromantic asexual then they don’t WANT to be associated with ” the gays” and that small minority of cis, heteroromantic aces shouldn’t decide it for the rest of them. Aces struggle a LOT from heteronormativity in many cases for many years and deserve access to others who understand what it’s like to not be sexually attracted to the expected gender. Who also were overlooked in sex ed classes and gendered song lyrics and “universal” fiction
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