‘Are you not attracted to me?’ No, not like that. Romantically, yes, I still had feelings for my partner.’: Asexual person urges, ‘We exist, we are human, and we are beautiful’

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“’Are you not attracted to me?’ ‘…What?’ I remember this moment clearly, getting caught off guard by this. It seemed so out of the blue. My partner at the time was with me in a parking garage, just hugging me but overwhelming me in the moment. I felt trapped in my car and uncomfortable, then they popped that question. The question which meant I had to reassure them to avoid their pity party. The question that would circle in my brain the rest of the night and for days following.

I’d never considered asexuality before. I’d explored my identity otherwise, a few years prior. I discovered around 13 years old I am pansexual, and a couple years later that I am transgender nonbinary. I didn’t think I’d be discovering my identity and coming out a third time. Twice was plenty enough! I just never even thought about sexual relationships or how I felt about it. I was uncomfortable with sexual topics and humor, sure, but I passed it off as nothing. (Besides, not all asexual, or ace, people are uncomfortable with it, so it’s not much of a sign). But when they asked me this, I started thinking about it. What I eventually concluded was…well no, not really. Romantically, yes, I still had feelings for my partner. I just didn’t want sex.

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

Asexuality is not disliking sex or being celibate or not having a sex drive. Asexuality is someone not experiencing sexual attraction towards another person. For me, I fall on the spectrum of asexuality, particularly the terms greysexual (or grey-ace) and demisexual. Greysexual is the grey area between being asexual and allosexual (which is another word for not asexual). It basically means sexual attraction is a rare experience. Demisexual is also in this grey area, but it means an emotional connection is needed with another person before sexual attraction may occur. So for me, after I get to know someone, feel comfortable and feel emotionally connected, then rarely, I might feel sexual attraction towards them.

Anyway, a few days to a week after their question, I told my partner, ‘I think I’m greysexual.’ I explained what it meant and…they did not get it. They seemed to at first, and all was well. But when I saw them, they continued to be overwhelming and say or ask things I wasn’t comfortable with. They either thought I wanted to be nowhere near them or since I said ‘I think,’ it actually wasn’t true and they could just forget about it. Forgetting about it is exactly what happened. They stopped believing me, even though we never talked about it again and no further questions were asked after that week. In fact, even I forgot about it. For a year.

One year later – same partner, same feelings. Or rather non-feelings, mixed feelings, unpredictable feelings. Somehow it creeped back in my mind, but I took my time before talking to them. I read a lot about it on social media, I tossed it over and over in my head every time we were together, I even wrote a song about it. But I kept it to myself nonetheless.

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

My first step towards asexual pride was getting myself a black ring. When worn on someone’s right middle finger, a black ring symbolizes asexuality. I’d seen it come up multiple times online and decided to get one for myself before even coming out again to my partner or anyone else. They noticed it, especially as I wore it every day (and still do), but I didn’t share much when asked. My second step was at Models of Pride. It’s the largest LGBTQ+ youth conference in the world and I gave a workshop, ‘Empowerment Through Creating for Today’s LGBTQ+ Activists.’ I presented as the founder of Respect All Love, the human rights organization I run. About 20+ kids showed up, all around 14-19 years old. When I introduced myself at the start, I included my identity as transgender nonbinary, pansexual and greysexual. This was the first time I told anyone the last part, other than my partner long before. I didn’t know anyone there and it was a pride setting, so it was safe. I also got my first mini asexual pride flag at the event.

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

So then came ‘coming out’ again to my partner. I put it off, super nervous. But I told them, I explained the ring, and I even said how I was nervous because we stopped talking about it and let it go like it wasn’t real. The response I got was defensive yet accepting, a mixed bag I didn’t want. I only felt partially heard. But I continued to talk about it and bring it up anyway. I would not let it be dismissed again. I also brought myself to come out to friends in my Respect All Love club at college. They were so sweet and accepting, and I was becoming more open about it myself. As for the relationship, I saw over time how much more respect I deserved. No more sitting through their pity parties instead of facing problems and making sure they listened. And for me, no more hesitating or quieting myself.

All of it led me to working on mental health and empowerment, and ultimately towards my recent decision to go public. Breaking up was step 1. Realizing and believing I deserve better, step 1.5. Step 2, talking it out with a friend and more reading online! Through this, not only was I actually listened to and believed, but I found an online community of asexual people and this incredible ace activist, Yasmin Benoit. She is a model (including for lingerie, breaking down ‘prude ace’ stereotypes and assumptions) and an activist. Following her activist work and reading her words has been a huge inspiration for me. I realized how many of those misconceptions had gotten in my head, too. For step 3, I practiced more body positivity and allowed my sexuality to be whatever it was. I’m asexual and if I do or don’t want to have sex, that’s fine. If I do or don’t act on it, that’s fine. If I do or don’t enjoy it, that’s fine. And regardless, it’s my body, my choice, and this is always how it should be.

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

Going public was a difficult decision for me. I wanted to help people, add to the very limited representation, and face off the poor assumptions of us. But I didn’t want invasive questions, or to relive an old relationship. I don’t need to share my feelings toward sex and what I do or don’t do. But I started to feel the need to share my body positivity journey, the importance of consent, and my story which ultimately says, ‘You are not broken, you are valid and deserve to be heard.’

I’ve been feeling more empowered in my body ever since coming out to friends and finding community, along with finding positive representation. And luckily, I’ve gotten a very positive reaction online, both from people I know and those I don’t. This is less about my experiences or me personally. It’s about educating people and being there for those who need it. The last thing I want is for someone else to quiet their voice or to not understand the boundaries they need or to believe someone telling them they’re faking it. Asexual people are real. We are human. I see you and I believe you.

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

Current asexual representation is quite rare, and when it does show up in media, it’s often a robot or alien character. It’s not the positive kind of representation we need that shows us as human and normal. Beyond the assumptions that it’s celibacy or there’s something physically wrong, there are other harmful misconceptions. These include generalizations – all ace people are virgins, don’t like sex, don’t like sexual humor, don’t want to ever have sex, or don’t have romantic relationships. First off, generalizations are never helpful. To all of the above, it varies per person just as it would for anyone else. Asexuality is different from aromanticism (not experiencing romantic attraction), although some people are both. If you want to make sure someone’s not uncomfortable, such as with sexual topics/humor, ask respectfully if reasonable. Otherwise, it’s not your business.

I didn’t need to have sex to know I’m asexual. I didn’t need to share I’m asexual with anyone other than my partner. But I am proud of my identity, and I’m so glad I went through with coming out. My message stands. We exist, we are human. We are beautiful. And to anyone questioning – take your time, figure out your boundaries, find your power. You are valid and worthy, always. I’m proud of you for taking that brave step.”

Courtesy of Rowan Blackwood

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rowan Blackwood from Los Angeles, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram, YouTube, and their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about asexuality here:

‘My manager interrupted. ‘Wait, what? You need to get that checked out.’ I’d lie and say I was ‘gay.’ It was easier to explain.’: Woman shares candid reality of being asexual, ‘I’m not broken’

‘How will you know you don’t like sex if you don’t try?’ Kissing left me uncomfortable. As a ‘good Catholic girl,’ I was pressured to marry and have kids.’: Asexual woman says she ‘doesn’t need sex to feel happy’

‘If I can’t have sex with my partner, I’m not staying with them.’ It hurt to hear these things from people who claimed to love me.’: Asexual woman shares journey to self acceptance, ‘We deserve the space to exist without question’

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