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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Asexual spectrum identities are often misunderstood

<me deep level, I’ve known for years that I’m asexual. When I was younger I used to wonder why everyone was so obsessed with sex, when I only wanted to spend time with people I cared about.

But I didn’t think of myself as asexual until last year, almost exactly a year ago, in fact. It was at Stripped that I learned about the label that I’ve since come to realize best encapsulates my sexuality.

I’m demisexual, which is admittedly an unwieldy, obscure term. It’s a form of gray asexuality—that is, a position on the spectrum of sexuality, of which complete allosexuality and complete asexuality are poles.

More specifically, demisexuality means I am unable to experience sexual attraction to someone unless I have a deep emotional connection to them already.

I have felt romantically attracted to people many times in my twenty years; I find people physically attractive; I think about romance and sexuality like anyone else; but I have only been sexually attracted to people twice in my life.

This gets to one of the most pervasive myths about asexuality. Asexuality doesn’t make someone sexless or aromantic or unappreciative of human physical appearances.

Nor does asexuality necessarily prevent one from having a libido or desiring sexual activity. Sometimes, as in my case, the limiting factor in attraction is simply finding the right person.

I am saying all this lucidly, I hope, but when talking to other people, even people generally knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ issues, it can be difficult to explain the concept, because asexuality doesn’t have a ready analogy for many people.

Humans are sexual creatures, after all. Our society is inundated by sex. Expressing that you aren’t generally interested in it can cause heads to turn.

And so it has, almost without fail, on the various occasions when I’ve come out to people I know.

A few have understood, I believe, but far more common the response has been akin to “Are you sure?” or “Maybe you just haven’t found the right person,” the former of which makes me want to tear my hair out and the latter of which makes me want to shout back, Yes, that is what demisexuality means.

The central problem, in my experience, has been that acespec identities are by definition characterized by the absence of something, which means they’re easy to erase.

If you don’t have sex, or if you don’t like hookups, or if you don’t watch pornography, and so on, people may believe you and be surprised. Then again, they may assume that you do want those things and are either quiet about it or are unable to act on those desires.

As a result, I’ve often felt invisible with respect to my asexuality, very much at home, but even at a place as usually LGBTQIA+ friendly at Carleton as well.

This is, of course, not to get into the often-heated question of whether asexuality is a form of queerness, a subject on which many people, acespec and otherwise, hold different views.

It’s an especially political question because acespec people aren’t visibly oppressed in the same way as people of other sexualities. Is queerness a question of identity or oppression? Different people have different answers.

Still, the very fact that this question can become so heated often makes me feel invisible in LBGTQIA+ circles. The “A” doesn’t really seem to fit with the others.

This is not to say that I feel oppressed. I don’t. But I do often feel invisible.

Because I’m attracted to women and cisgender, most people don’t think I approach sex any differently from the cishet allosexual norm, unless they know I’m demisexual, and even in that case there’s not always a guarantee they’ll understand.

More than anything, I wish people understood my identity. I wish it had more visibility. I wish I didn’t have to explain what it was whenever I come out as demisexual.

I wish I could find scientific literature, any literature, really, about gray asexuality. I danced a jig when Vice’s Snapchat story talked about it, however briefly and simply.

I don’t anticipate acespec identities will be at the forefront of public discourse in the near future, but I’d love to see more discussion of them.

The rare occasions when people know what I mean when I talk about asexuality make me feel great for days. I’d love for that to happen more, for myself and the many other people out there with similar experiences.

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