When I was about 16, I thought I had my love life figured out.
Despite a few valiant failed attempts, I knew I didn’t like boys. I mean, I liked boys. They were my pals, my buddies, I enjoyed hanging out with them. But I never thought of them in a romantic way like the rest of my girl friends obviously did, and the thought of getting “up close and personal,” just… no.
I also knew I liked girls. I got shy around them, I wanted to hold hands with them, I got butterflies in my stomach when a girl I liked talked to me. So naturally, I labeled myself a lesbian/dyke, and that term seemed to fit fine for the next 20-odd years.
But in retrospect, that label didn’t exactly fit, either.
For example, my friends would stare at me with open-mouthed incredulity when I could not discern if someone was ‘hot’ or not.
‘Not even $gorgeous_celebrity?’
‘Well, no… I mean… they’re nice enough looking, but I don’t know anything about them. Their personality, their sense of humor, their intelligence, their interests, their beliefs… how could I possibly find them attractive?’
Late last year, in the wake of the untimely death of my 17-year relationship with my former wife, while trying to combat the ensuing onslaught of unprecedented trauma, depression, and anxiety that followed, I decided to dig more into this aspect of myself that had always felt kind of ‘off’ compared to other people.
Somehow in there, I ended up searching the term ‘asexuality,’ and suddenly felt a gigantic puzzle piece of my life slot into place.
Last month, in honor of Asexual Pride Day, I came out once again: this time as a homo-romantic asexual.
A who in the what now?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation describing someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction.
Apart from that, asexual people (or ‘aces,’ for short) have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships.
Since I realize that sounds absolutely baffling to the vast majority of the population, think of it as basically the exact opposite of a dynamic where you can want to have a one-night stand with someone (sexual attraction) without the desire to love them on a deeper emotional/intellectual level or take them to candlelit dinners (romantic attraction).
It’s also possible to love someone on a deeper emotional/intellectual level and take them to candlelit dinners (and even to raise kids with them), but not to feel innate sexual desire towards them, nor to anyone else. (It’s also possible to feel neither of those things; this would be an ‘aromantic asexual.’)
One of the most striking illustrations I can think of is my ex and I each had a ‘list’ with celebrities on it, and the deal was if a situation should ever arise where you and that person got intimate with one another, it wouldn’t be considered cheating because, hey, they’re on the list.
Both of our lists had Angelina Jolie on them. But she was on my list in case we should ever stay up late into the night, gazing intently into each other’s eyes, talking animatedly about the United Nations and international adoption.
That doesn’t mean asexuals don’t have sex; many asexuals do, whether out of love for their partners (as in my case), out of a fruitless attempt to ‘fix’ themselves (also, sadly, in my case), or because they simply want to see what all the fuss is about.
However, because it’s a sexual orientation, asexuality is an innate part of you. Just as you can’t ‘pray the gay away,’ you also can’t ‘thrust your way to lust.’
If you want to learn more about asexuality, I found this book to be a helpful, humorous introduction.
Tell me more!
Ok, so with that bit of ‘Asexuality 101’ intro out of the way, here’s a short documentary I was recently filmed in with some of my other ace friends here in town, describing our experiences in how we came to discover our asexuality, and how that’s impacted our lives and relationships. (Bonus: You get to meet my cat, who is from Montréal, and thus gives zero fucks about barging her way into various shots.)
It was very important to me to do this bit of outreach, because if you don’t know that asexuality is a thing, you basically spend your entire adult life thinking you have ‘intimacy issues’ because you are fucked up and broken in some fundamental way (like I did).
So if even one person out there sees this and goes, “Holy crap, they’re talking about ME!” (and, statistically, 1% of you are), then mission accomplished!
And if that person happens to be you, please know that you’re not broken, you’re not fucked up, and you’re also not alone. There’s a large community of asexuals and allies at asexuality.org and they are friendly, smart, funny, generous, wonderful people.
Just like you.
Follow Angie Byron on Twitter: @webchick
A version of this article first appeared on Medium.