How Discovering My Asexuality Set Me Free
I was 21 when I found out I was asexual, and it changed everything in my life – my perception of myself, my expectations for the future, my understanding of the world. In a way, it more than changed my life; nothing was ever the same after that discovery, and I often say that a new life started for me then – that the person I became once I started identifying as asexual and seeing the world through new eyes was so different from the one I had been until then that it could not be the same person at all. It was a new me – someone with a new view of the world, different hopes, and far more possibilities.
I do not believe that I was born asexual – I do not believe that our sexual orientation (or our romantic orientation, or most of our other preferences for that matter) are already set at birth. I am not a big fan of the “it's all genetic” theories. I strongly believe that our environment, and the various things we experience as we grow up and later as we grow older, are what makes us who we are, and I think I can pinpoint some of the things that made me asexual, or at least some symptoms of that change taking place, back when I was about nine or ten years old. No, it was nothing awful – I was not sexually abused, I was not exposed to sexually explicit material, I was not brought up in fear of sex. But many little things happened and combined themselves in that way and I became asexual. I have never regretted it – I may not have been born asexual, but there are many elements of my personality that make this orientation especially appropriate and, indeed, probably the most suitable for me. Maybe, in fact, these elements did contribute to making me asexual. In truth, I do not care much about how it happened; I just think about it sometimes because I want to understand such things. But I am certainly glad it happened, and even more glad that I eventually found out about it; in fact, the only negative thing about my asexuality is that for so long I was not aware of it, and that if I had not become aware of it I would certainly have been very unhappy without ever understanding why or what I could do to change that.
Before I discovered that asexuality existed, I never suspected that I was different in that way (there were other ways I knew I was different from other people, though). When I thought about sex, it was as something that would happen to me someday – I would meet the right person (at the time I thought it would be a guy), fall in love with him, and we would “make love” and it would be wonderful, like in the romance novels I had read. I never asked myself if I really wanted this; I did not know it was possible not to want it. I never asked myself if having sex would really be so wonderful, when I felt nauseous and deeply uncomfortable whenever I read more factual and realistic (but not necessarily detailed) descriptions of sex, like in biology class when we talked about human reproduction, or the couple of times I looked up sex education websites. I did not think it was possible not to want sex, so it had to mean that this discomfort would pass when I met the right person.
When I discovered that asexuality existed, I did not think it might apply to me – it was too “special” an orientation, too rare, and I was not really aware that I was not interested in sex anyway (since I expected I would only be interested with the right guy). But when I eventually (for other reasons) had to question my orientation, asexuality appeared the only possible answer – and when I decided that it had to be the right one, I felt relieved. I had never felt pressured before, but now I was liberated; I had never thought that I might not want to have sex, but suddenly I was happy to know that indeed I did not have to – and that I probably would not.
Becoming aware of my asexuality allowed me to understand that I should not take anything for granted about myself or the world. I suddenly understood that I had choices where before I had always believed I had none – that maybe I did not truly feel or want things that were supposed to be experienced and desired by everyone – and I began questioning many aspects of my life that I had never thought much about before. This led me to realize that it was possible to love people deeply without being “in love” with them, to want to be close to them without this closeness being necessarily achieved by dating them, and to have fantasies but not actually want them to become true. It allowed me to understand what I truly wanted my life to be like.
Now, three years later, I think that discovering I was asexual is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I do not think very often about what this orientation describes – my lack of interest in sex – but I am grateful every day for the many other things my awareness of it has brought me – all the choices I discovered I could make, all the new ways I discovered I could relate to other people and love them, all the possible futures that I now see open before me. Because I know I do not conform to the one expectation that is so deeply rooted in society that it is not even really formulated anymore and that most people cannot believe exceptions are possible (“everyone is interested in sex, or if they are not, then it is because something bad happened to them and they certainly want to be fixed”), I find it easy not to conform to social expectations in other ways – like preferring to be alone or not being interested in a romantic relationship. Knowing I am asexual has given me the possibility to discover who I really am and the strength to be who I want to be.