“Oh yeah, I used to be asexual too. I grew out of it.”
I’m sure if you’re asexual and open about it, you’ve heard this phrase too. A few of my friends have spent a period of their lives identifying as asexual, before something changes their viewpoint. Maybe they gain an increase in libido, they transition to another gender, or sexuality (being fluid) just shifts for them. Whatever the reason, it can be hard to hear these words. It’s like an abandonment, at least it was for me when I was younger and felt like I had to prove my orientation.
Of course, most of the people I knew who said phrases like the one above weren’t trying to be dismissive of my orientation. As it turns out, not everything is all about me (I KNOW. SHOCKING.) For the people in question, the realization they weren’t ace, either anymore or ever, came at the end of a long search to find themselves. I couldn’t be happier for them to realize who they are, and as long as they don’t go around claiming that their story is everyone’s experience with asexuality, I see no reason why their experience has anything to do with mine.
In the asexual community, there is a stigma with former aces. One friend I had, who transitioned to male and discovered that he quite liked sex and seeing sexy people once he was comfortable in his skin, felt that he had to cut all ties with the asexual community after this change. He came and told me about it like he was a gay child confessing to conservative parents; it struck me that he had to feel the same kind of nervousness. Admitting to someone that you’re not who they thought you were is a big leap of trust, and I hope that I’ve been open enough to the people I love that they feel like they can confide in me. This friend in particular swore me to secrecy, like I was going to destroy their ace cred (which is totally a thing. I’m a level 100 asexual, and I have super powers.) Jokes aside, for people who have found a home in the asexual community, or have found their own value as a non-sexual person with this particular group of friends, the change in identity can be a bit of a shock.
And the way asexuals have been talking about allosexuals (this is the generally accepted term for someone who’s not asexual) on social media, who can really blame former asexuals for feeling apprehensive? I’ve found even when I openly talk about my doubts with my own asexuality, as someone who’s been a spokesperson and educator about asexuality for a LONG time, I get shut down pretty quick.
I actually saw one post that had been reblogged hundreds of times come across my feed demanding that people who aren’t sexually attracted to other people but have sex (and like it!) stop using the term asexual to describe themselves. It was shocking and sad to me, man. When I first discovered asexuality on the interwebs of the early 2000s, it was a tiny community, still deciding how to represent themselves, but the best thing about it was the openness to exploring sexuality. That, and there was a simple way to determine if you were a REAL asexual: do you identify as asexual? Congrats, you’re asexual.
This kind of identity policing needs to stop, not just because it’s mean, but because it creates a rift between former aces and current aces. What kind of group that advocates for recognition and respect for one kind of sexuality can just turn around and make others feel awful for changing? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of what we want?