Danger: Dating While Asexual

“Hey, I think you’re beautiful…” was how a seemingly innocent (and somewhat flattering) message on OKCupid started out. I’m sure if you’ve seen blogs like OKStupid or other blogs documenting weird encounters on this dating site, you know where this is going. However, I’m a little too trusting, so I made an “awww” sound and then promptly choked on that as I kept reading.

I’m gonna summarize here, because it was a weird series of sentences, but the short version is that he took “asexual” to mean that I would enjoy “butt stuff” and/or treating him as a sex slave. (I’m guessing the logic here is that he wouldn’t be touching my genitals, so it’d be asexual sex…??)

I’d like to say this is the weirdest offer I’ve gotten on that site, but around once a week or so, someone bravely offers to “fix” my asexuality. You know, cause I haven’t found the right person yet. I often ask them if they’ve tried not having sex with the right person yet, just in case they might be asexual. As you might expect, this doesn’t really invite introspection so much as a whole lot of confusion.

The less expected downside of dating online as an openly asexual person is that some other asexuals think that matching sexuality is enough reason to date. Sure, we’re a small pool of people, but if you’re a 2% match for me, it’s probably not going to work out just because we both don’t wanna bone each other. I’d honestly rather date a better match who wasn’t ace, especially since sex is on the table for me. I’d get more into the difference of being sex repulsed and simply being indifferent to sex, but I can really only speak from my experience, which I’d compare to going to a sports event that you don’t generally care for, but your partner does, and you enjoy it because you’re there with them. This article, by a super awesome ace activist who runs the Resources for Ace Survivors website, details a little more about that topic than I’d really like to delve into here.

Currently, I’m dating someone who’s not ace, and I’ve learned from past experience, it means a lot of checking in, open communication, and explaining innuendos, because he’s pretty oblivious to them. It made me realize how hyper-aware I could be about invites to have sex, or situations that had a lot of sexual pressure in them, because I notice things like that way before he does, and it has a lot to do with past experiences. The last thing I want is to “lead someone on” by unintentionally agreeing to something sexual (reasons why the whole “consent is clear and enthusiastic” bit is so important!!). In past relationships, despite clearly telling the other partner I was ace, I often experienced either pressure to have sex, or worse, pressure to find them sexually appealing, which just isn’t something I experience. As in, holy shit that person is gorgeous, but no matter how gorgeous I find them, I’m not gonna experience any sexual feelings in relation to their utter beauty.

Being labeled a “tease” or “frigid” despite being clear about my sexuality has left me a little paranoid, and I’d like to thank the American film industry for that one. A combination of “persistence is true love” and “sex is true love” has poisoned a lot of my relationships, and has put me in some pretty creepy situations. I’ve even experienced sexual assault at the hands of one of my partners, who genuinely thought that doing so was showing me love, or teaching me how to love. Something like that. I never really got a full explanation on it beyond they felt like it was the right thing to do.

With that in mind, the more benign pit fall is that if I tell someone I’ve just started dating that I’m asexual, they abruptly disappear. And while that kind of hurts a little, I do prefer that over someone pretending they’re fine with it when they’re not. Though I’d like a little more honest communication than just…ghosting. When I was a young thing, I thought people were the Absolute Worst for not wanting to date someone based on their asexuality, but honestly, sexual incompatibility is a totally valid reason not to date someone, asexual or not.

What this all comes down to is that dating is already stressful, and asexuality is just one more layer of stressful in that dating game. Hopefully people will start googling “asexual” before they hit me up on the internet for kinky shit?

5 Things When You “Used to be Lesbians” and Now He’s a Dude

When you’re involved in the trans community, as a transgender person or an ally, it’s bound to happen eventually; you date someone who changes genders after your relationship is over. I had a weird track record of doing this before I came out myself (the running joke was that if you dated me, you’d turn out transgender.)

Now, I know some people take it personally when a former partner transitions (one of my friends described his ex-fiance crying when he found out, even though they’d been broken up for years!) but I like to focus on some of the weirder things that come with the territory. I’ve always had a very panromantic orientation, and a relaxed attitude when it comes to gender to begin with, so when someone lets me know they’re going by another name and pronouns, it doesn’t exactly rock my world. I’m super thrilled, obviously, for this person to discover their true selves and all, it’s just happened so many times, I look at it a lot like any other life change. You know, like when your friends announce they’re getting married after dating for about five years.

Especially with former partners, I tend to notice a certain vibe about them before they do (because I purely date logic-driven Spock type people. Yeah.)

However, regardless of emotional impact, here’s a few of the interesting things I’ve noticed about dating people who have since shifted gender; in this case, I’m gonna be talking mostly about trans men and nb people, but I hope it’s all pretty familiar to other people in my boat.

1. When my exes transitioned, I got a ton of their clothes as a hand me down. This made me able to say a sentence like “I’m wearing my ex-boyfriend’s bra right now.” which cracks me up. I’ve also noticed that seeing clothes they previously treasured (an old shirt or dress?) finding a good home on someone else seems to be a good feeling for some of these guys. Maybe kind of like realizing you enjoy boobs, just on other people, not yourself?

2. One of the first discussions I’ve always had with my exes is how they want me to discuss them. Are they going stealth? Do they care if people know they’re trans, or that they identified as a lesbian at one point? Is it okay to refer to them as a girl in a story where they identified as one? The questions go on and on, and there’s no one size fits all answer. For one ex, the phrase “back when we were lesbians” was a perfect way to encapsulate our old relationship. For another ex, he wanted me to strictly refer to him as my ex boyfriend, and a man in all stories.

3. I’m lucky, and I’ve remained friends with a lot of my exes. It helps that we’ve all transitioned to some degree or another, but I think understanding and patience goes a long way. Dating someone pre-transition also feels starkly different from dating someone who is…well, being true to themselves. It’s hard to connect on a deeper level or continue a long term relationship when there’s that much going on inside someone (so I feel like that makes a break up less impactful!) I watched one ex who started out as my surly, angry girlfriend, become a much more relaxed, outgoing man once he finally realized why he felt so uncomfortable at all times. So I guess one other interesting thing about dating someone who’s transitioned is that it makes a break up and an ensuing friendship a bit…easier?

4. I’m mostly into ladies (or so I thought. I might want to re-examine that one.) but when it comes to listing my dating history, I appear to be really into dudes. Like almost exclusively. It cracks me up, because I’m not specifically seeking other trans people to date either, yet here I am, with a whole lot of transgender exes. One person accused me of chasing trans men, before I explained that all that happened pre-transition.

5. Telling stories is a bit awkward sometimes, especially if it was a lesbian centered romance. You know, you were both super proud of being lesbians and figuring out your sexuality. You were still in that “I’m NOT gonna CHANGE, Mom!!!” phase, and being a lesbian was super empowering. I don’t regret identifying as a lesbian, but obviously the label doesn’t fit me or my ex any longer. So describing that we started dating because we realized we were both ace lesbians…makes very little sense to an outsider.

Overall, I’d guess someone you loved transitioning can bring a lot of questions. Like, is this why the relationship didn’t work? Is your sexuality different than you realized? And most importantly, how do they want you to talk about them now? Outing an ex, even if they were a total anus while you dated, is pretty not cool. So, that’s my experience; anyone else experienced something similar?

 

 

Treating Former Aces Like Apostates?

“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?

 

Three Things Everyone Asked Me When I Came Out as Asexual…And One Thing I Would Tell My Younger Self.

I didn’t know the term, but when I first heard about sex (a rather non-informative talk with my mother for which she unthinkingly packed a hot dog lunch) my impression was something like “Well. I’m not doing that.” This sentiment didn’t change even after I started puberty, held babies, met someone I really loved, AND developed a healthy libido. I’ve been open about it since before I was open about anything else about myself; I’m even old school and have an ace ring…through which I’ve found two other aces in six years, so that’s not too bad a rate.

Here’s a few of the most common things I’ve heard as an open asexual, and some of my criticisms of these…uh, criticisms.

“What if you want a family someday?”

Yeah, maybe I will. What’s that got to do with being asexual? First, this is the 21st century. There are ways to get pregnant without having sex, there are ways to have children without getting pregnant, and most importantly, family is what you make it. Maybe family for me is all the younger queer kids I’ve mentored (they call me “Dad.” Go figure.) Or maybe, family for me is going to be a partner who I can grow old with. I don’t know. All I know is, my path to a future family isn’t restricted to the getting pregnant route.

“What if you date/marry someone who wants sex?”

Well, first, I did. That ended pretty horribly. Weirdly enough, loving someone who was allosexual didn’t make me any less asexual. Guess it’s not contagious. I’ve been in relationships where we’ve found compromises that made both of us happy, and I’ve been in relationships that have ended in anger and tears on account of sex. A lot of it comes down to communication, the maturity of both parties involved (and younger me was an asshat, so…) and the disparity between sexual needs.

In addition, it always seemed weird to me that this question presumes I’m not going to find someone else like me. You know, an ace-on-ace relationship. Because I’ve found that too, and that was pretty swell. I feel like questions like that are almost isolating, because they presume that the asexual in question is the only one like that. I know I often felt like, answering those types of questions, that I was on my own, navigating an allosexual dating scene.

“Did trauma or a medical condition do this to you?”

No, but thanks for bringing that up!! Seriously, I love discussing possible traumatic episodes and private medical conditions with people. Many people mean well when they ask these kinds of questions; for instance, my mother wanted me to get my hormones checked, in case I was sick. Other people are just genuinely curious. They can’t wrap their heads around why someone might not feel the way they do, so they have to come up with some kind of rationale. It used to bother me a lot, but generally, if I tell people politely that my orientation isn’t a medical condition, they leave it be.

However, I’ve always wondered; what would it change if I had a medical condition or traumatic event that made me this way? I mean, I’m sure there might be a cure or a treatment, but what if I was perfectly content living this way? And more interestingly, would I be weirder or more acceptable if my lack of sexual interest was explained by a medical condition?

When I first started hearing these questions, I got super defensive. It’s hard to be patient and understanding when it’s your identity being discussed, and I don’t think it’s for everyone. But if I could go back in time, I’d tell younger me that everything is going to be alright. In ten years, I’m still gonna be ace, people are still going to ask weird questions, and I’m still going to sometimes be accused of lacking genitals and/or a heart, but I’m not going to be alone. It seems like every year, my circle of ace friends just expands. And that’s something that makes this experience not so lonely.

But also, if I was able to go back in time, I’d let my younger self know to stop eating gluten. Super allergic, as it turns out.

 

 

The “Bad” Asexual

You know you’re the “good one” when you’re asked to be on every panel on asexuality; I had it all! The charisma, the sense of humor, the indifference to sex, and the cute genderqueer sports coat. If I was on the panel, you had to know I was going to be adorable AND able to discuss sex like it was no big deal. The LGBT groups loved me, the gender and sexuality professors loved me, and most importantly, I didn’t make anyone feel like they had to question the amount of importance they put on sex in a relationship.

There was only one minor problem with me as an asexual rep: I’m a rape survivor. It happened my first year of college, by someone who thought they could fix my asexuality, and I conveniently edited that out of my story every time. At first, it was just because it was too new, and I didn’t want to discuss it. You need time to heal from something like that.

When I finally felt at ease with the past enough to discuss it, however, I talked with my asexual collaborators about it. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I was shut down. Yeah, they supported me, I was “brave” for telling them…but I probably should just keep it to myself. Enough people assumed that aces were that way because of trauma (it was the number one question at panels besides “…but you can have sex, you just don’t want to, right?”) and if I told my story, it would just feed that misconception.

I didn’t come out with my story until after I left college. Another, braver asexual wrote their story, and asked me to contribute mine. Then I wrote my story for asexualsurvivors.org, and joined the team as a moderator. It’s been amazing, connecting with other survivors, but it’s also been heart breaking, knowing that the same story is repeating for so many people out there. And it breaks my heart to know that my silence, and the silence of so many other people, has left many aces feeling the same way; that they are alone, an anomaly, and that if they speak up, their orientation will be seen as invalid.

It also makes me wonder how many of the young aces I mentored in college experienced the same, or something similar to this, and felt like they couldn’t say anything to me about it. Because I was so busy being a shining example of what a sex positive asexual looked like, there wasn’t any room for anything messy or questionable in my life.

I was always scared to say it out loud, and even today, I get nervous just thinking about others knowing.

I’m asexual. I’m a rape survivor. And I am no less valid for being both.