I’ve been working on this post for a very long time, but wasn’t quite sure when I should post it. Today, 26 October 2014, marks the beginning of Asexual Awareness Week (AAW), and that seems as good a time as any.
Part of this is inspired by my increasing frustration with society and the world in which I live and part of it is inspired by the destruction and rebuilding of my life that’s happened in the last year. As with most things I write, this will likely go all over the place 🙂
From the day we are born, and sometimes even before that, each and every one of us in Western society is subjected to gender roles and gender stereotypes. As soon as a woman finds out that she’s pregnant, everyone asks her about the expected gender of the child. If the child is likely to be a boy, the family starts receiving baby items that are blue. If the child is expected to be a girl, everyone sends pink everything. Once the child is born, the boys receive automatic birthday cards and presents that are blue with trucks on them, or firefighters, or super heroes, while the girls receive everything pink with dolls, or princesses, or cute animals. This trend only increases as the children get older, and is most noticeable in the “blue” and “pink” aisles you can find in absolutely any store. From birth, children are expected to fulfill their respective gender role. Girls should want to be princesses and family caretakers and boys should want to be the manly man who goes to work and provides for the family.
Someone in my facebook feed recently asked at what age it was appropriate to get a little girl’s ears pierced. My response was a very vocal “never” and I went on to describe my thoughts on how a piercing should never be done to someone. If someone who is old enough and mature enough to understand what having a piercing means and to actually want one and care for their ears correctly, I’d be supportive. But piercing a little girl’s ears so that you can make them look cute is wrong on every level. And I read articles about how parents allow their little boys to be rude and destroy castles made by little girls and the parents chuckle and say, “Boys will be boys” and I get so frustrated.
WE ARE TEACHING OUR CHILDREN TO BE WHO SOCIETY SAYS THEY OUGHT TO BE INSTEAD OF HELPING THEM BE WHO THEY ARE.
I had no interest in dolls when I was little. I wanted Legos and sometimes action figures, but I only wanted the action figures if they had removable armor and great weapon accessories. Everyone called me a tomboy because I liked to go outside and climb trees and I didn’t act anywhere close to what a proper little girl should. I had no desire to cook. I never fantasized about finding the right guy and getting married and having my 2.5 children. In church musicals, I played a soldier, a blue Care Bear, or Rumplestiltskin, or emotional representations of fear and death. I was never the princess or the damsel in distress. I had no desire to be rescued and absolutely no patience to wait around for someone else to decide my life for me.
As I got older, I felt withdrawn and broken because all those things that everyone around me wanted had no interest to me. I invested my free time in comic books, specifically the X-Men, and occasionally Batman. I didn’t want to date, but I liked hanging out with my friends, or my brother and his friends. I can’t even tell you how many females tried to be friendly with me to try and get dates with my brothers. My first kiss happened when I was 16, but I didn’t want to be any closer than we were. My favorite days with that gentlemen were when we went to his house and played board games or King’s Quest VI. I don’t know if he wanted more or not, but that relationship didn’t work out.
As more time passed, people in my peer group were talking about sex and some of them got pregnant and I was uncomfortable with all of it. Sex never felt desirable to me and it was not something I was ever curious about. I mean, I was curious in the sense that I didn’t understand why everyone else was so obsessed and I felt even more out of place because I felt like it was something that I was supposed to want and I just didn’t. I can be a very devoted and loving girlfriend if I love someone enough, but I’m really not okay with sex directed at me. I like to cuddle and be close to people I love, but there are only a small selection of individuals who I trust enough and am comfortable enough to let come physically close to me.
I’m over thirty years old now. In all that time, I’ve always wanted to find someone to share my life with, but I never wanted a normal relationship. I really just wanted a room mate that would be there for me to talk to when I came home from work. Someone to go adventuring with me. Someone to go and travel the world and go rock climbing and scuba diving and swimming with dolphins and have tea in foreign countries. I wanted to get married, but not to have sex. And I didn’t know anyone else who understood that and I didn’t even understand it myself. I’m not going to go into more detail about how confusing thirty plus years of my ideas of what I want in my life and how that was different than what society said I should want in life has been for me. I won’t go into the spurts of depression and anxiety, where I have never felt wanted or needed or desired in my life. Where I can’t even think of anyone ever actually asking me on a date. I won’t go into details about how confusing it is to feel this alone and to not understand my own identity.
I don’t know why this memory is so crystal clear to me, but just over a year ago, we were watching a movie on my couch and she turned to me and said, “You know, we’re probably the two most asexual people on the planet.” I had no idea what that was or what that meant. From my time in science classes over a decade ago, I remember that asexual was used for animals in the wild that could change genders if necessary if their gene pool was threatened, or animals that didn’t require the opposite sex to reproduce. Not knowing what else to say, I responded with, “I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.”
Somewhere near the end of August 2014, something about different sexualities showed up in my tumblr feed. I started doing some research and realized that I wasn’t alone or broken after all. (Thank you Tiny Dinosaur! http://new-ace-on-the-block.tumblr.com/post/64588105082/tiny-dinosaur-wanted-to-help-out-with-awareness-so) That there are other people like me who aren’t interested in sex and have no inclination to pursue a sexual relationship. I realized that I am asexual and as soon as I said it out loud, so many things about my personality and about my life clicked.
Unfortunately, when I started telling people in my life, they don’t seem to understand. One of my close buddies says that he doesn’t believe that I’m asexual, just that I haven’t been properly stimulated. Another didn’t understand my analogy when I said that the idea of sex for me is like the idea of going to the dentist and not using any anesthesia. I’ve seen so many posts and articles from the other communities about how the “A” is for “Ally” and Asexuality gets pushed aside or forgotten. Still other articles say asexuals are cold and heartless and incapable of emotional attachment.
If you think I’m cold and heartless, clearly you’ve never met me. I’d say I’m one of the most caring, generous, thoughtful people I know. I will always give of myself before I ever even remotely consider taking from others. And I am also capable of deep, intense, great love. Being asexual doesn’t meant that I don’t want to someday get married. I really, really do. And that’s still my favorite daydream. But the chances of finding someone I love, who loves me, and who wants to share their life with me in the same manner is astronomically slim. I guess that’s what makes it my favorite daydream. I wrote a series of poems, one of which is called “Nerd Girls” where I describe exactly what I want in a relationship in the future. I want to play Zelda and build pillow forts and go for hikes and drink tea and raise adorable kittens and dress up and go to musicals. Now that I know who I am and that there are others like me, I’m not fighting against myself anymore. The deep, dark, passionate cycle of self-destruction is broken. Things are good and always getting better. I have a lot to be thankful for and I’m thankful every day for everything and everyone in my life.
So to the parents and family members and friends out there, please don’t force the people in your lives or the small humans you’re raising into a mold that may not fit. I am super lucky that my family is always supportive of my crazy endeavors, but even with a supportive family, I spent over three decades feeling broken and undesirable. Please don’t subject other people to your views on who someone should be, just be supportive of who they ARE.