Here is the second leg of my identity journey. Read part one here. (2/5).
For the first time, I learned about a variety of labels from the asexual subcommunity, and briefly, I thought they might’ve been for me. While examining my past, I really could only come up with one instance of sexual attraction that I’d experienced (with a boy), and I couldn’t even identity if it was real attraction or compulsive heterosexuality. I wasn’t sure if it was something I really wanted, or something I felt like I had to try because I was “supposed” to want it. But other than this, I’d spent all 18 years of my life never experiencing real sexual attraction to anyone, boy or girl.
During this time in 2015, I’d been developing a strong bond with my current girlfriend and started having these sexual attractions for the first time. (Which was even more confusing because I’d never even met her in person.) Because I’d experienced this attraction for the first time after developing a strong bond with this girl, I really considered the possibility that I might be demisexual. This is a label in the asexual community that describes a person who experiences sexual attraction after forming a relationship with a person. In fact, I even had several conversations with my girlfriend about it I’d considered it so seriously.
Flashforward to 2016, and I discovered that I love sex and have been recognizing sexual attraction for women and nonbinary people alike. (This isn’t to say I wanted to have sex with people who weren’t my girlfriend. It was more like seeing an actress on TV and agreeing with my girlfriend that she was really hot.)
Even now, 4 years later, it’s crazy to me how seriously I took this back then. I really thought I might be ace in some way, and the fact I considered it so seriously that I disclosed this to my girlfriend is almost unbelievable to me now. But growing up and misinterpreting sexual attraction for women as not sexual attraction at all really confused me. For the first year or two of recognizing I wasn’t heterosexual, I still wasn’t able to process my attraction to women as sexual; it had all been romantic attraction (or so I thought).
This misstep in my identity journey can likely be attributed to a number of factors. The first: internalized homophobia. Although I was never someone who spouted anti-gay opinions, I had a very shoulder-shrug approach to the controversy in my hometown. It didn’t apply to me, so I didn’t care so much about sharing my thoughts, which at the time was something like, “Why does anyone care who gets married to who.”
I’ve attended church a handful of times in my life, and–despite my dad’s Catholic upbringing—I have never even been baptized. My parents are split on the values they place on religion, but they agreed when I was born that my siblings and I would be free to follow any religion or none at all. They are also liberal-minded and have voiced pro-gay thoughts a few times during my childhood. My dad brought a discussion home from work once, saying his co-worker refused to send his son to an all-boys camp, fearing he would come back gay, to which my dad had said, “As if he was going to stop loving his son if that happened. Stupidest thing I ever heard.” And my mom voiced the similar why should we care who loves who attitude.
Essentially, my immediate family was the perfect family to come out to. I genuinely knew, without any doubt, that they would accept me and love me, even if it surprised them or took a short period of adjustment. But I never feared a loss of their love, my home, or financial support because of my identity.
Even still, I stayed frozen in fear over my possible attraction to women for a year. During that time, there was nothing more I wanted than to be normal. I asked myself, asked God, asked the universe a hundred times over, Why did this have to happen to me?
I find it extremely likely that I’d been clinging to some kind of last-ditch effort to deny my sexual attraction to women, and when Tumblr had presented this option to me, I took it and wasn’t ready to let that go. Realizing I wasn’t straight forced me into the five stages of grief over losing the person I thought I was, and the “asexual” label took place at the very end of that denial.
While I eventually learned asexuality didn’t describe me, I understand it does describe plenty of people. The next post will discuss bisexuality.