I first came out as asexual at a party to the same person I first came out as bisexual to. I’d known them for years and, as they did when we were 15, they said all the right things. They thanked me for telling them, and said they’d support me however I needed. Then I threw up.
It was strange, this second coming out. I felt more fear, confusion, and disgust than I ever did when considering my bisexuality. This time, I doubted whether my current or future relationships could take it. This time, I barely wanted to label myself asexual at all because I just don’t know enough to describe myself. This time, I was and still am terrified of anyone else finding out.
That party was the first time I came out verbally, but I would count my actual ‘coming out moment’ as putting my name down to join an asexual group. I had the browser tab open because I so desperately wanted to be in a room with people that felt the same way as me. And yet, I procrastinated for about fifteen minutes, glancing towards and away from the waiting tab, because I could not bring myself to put my name down. The thought of even this small group of people knowing that I identified as asexual petrified me. Eventually, however, I submitted my name, a weird thrill running through me as I pressed enter.
“Asexual people are most certainly queer enough, and just like other LGBTQ+ people, they face discrimination from allocishet people because of their sexuality.”
This second coming out has been harder in part because I have somehow internalised far more shame and stigma around asexuality than I had around bisexuality. This is no mean feat, considering bisexual people experience some of the lowest life satisfaction rates in the LGBTQ+ community. Stonewall’s 2018 Work Report found that 49 per cent of bisexual men are not out at work, compared to seven per cent of gay men and four per cent of lesbians.
Unlike many other LGBTQ+ people, however, asexual people are ostracised not only within ‘mainstream’ society, but also within the LGBTQ+ community itself. Even now, many LGBTQ+ people don’t believe asexual people are queer enough to be included within the LGBTQ+ alphabet.
This is, of course, absurd. Asexual people are most certainly queer enough, and just like other LGBTQ+ people, they face discrimination from allocishet people because of their sexuality. Like other LGBTQ+ people, asexual people cannot fit into heteronormative spaces, because they cannot partake in the expectation, duty, and enjoyment of sex in a monogamous relationship. That, in itself, is queer enough.
As if that weren’t enough, asexual people are also often forced out of other progressive circles. Even within the most intersectional of feminist circles, for example, asexual people find themselves ignored at best and shamed at worse, due to the fact that many modern feminists centre their activism around sex positivity and the celebration and normalisation of consensual and enjoyable sex. There is an unspoken question in many of these feminist circles: How can you be a true feminist if you’re not physically demonstrating your autonomy over your own body and sexuality through the means of regular, enjoyable sex?
“How is it that, even in the most stable and loving relationship, this part of my identity has reduced me to lying by omission?”
At that party, my friend also asked if I had told my partner. I said no, because I hadn’t, and I hope I never have to. My instinct is always to tell them everything about my life, except this part. How is it that, even in the most stable and loving relationship, this part of my identity has reduced me to lying by omission? I can ignore and navigate this enough in my own relationship, but my heart breaks when I consider how many closeted asexual people pretend to be seduced in order to protect themselves from ridicule, and being told they are not enough by the people they love.
The assumption that you must enjoy sex in order to be liberated, or in a loving relationship, or strong and confident, or even just a fully functioning adult needs to be reconsidered. We need to stop placing so much importance on sex and recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sex and sexuality, even within the LGBTQ+ community. We need more education around asexuality, and we need to scrub out some of the pressure and expectation we place on people, whether they’re queer or straight, to have sex.