I don’t really listen to other people’s playlists on Spotify – my music tastes are too spontaneous to be curated by anyone but me (I’ve got “Stutter” by Maroon 5 on the same playlist as Ruthie Henshall’s rendition of “I Had A Dream” and Panic! at the Disco’s “Northern Downpour”). There’s exactly one user playlist on Spotify that I follow: Ace Day by Tiffany Rose. The music itself isn’t always my cup of tea, but I relate to the 58 other anonymous followers, and when I listen, I don’t feel alone.
Hi, I’m asexual.
Technically I’m aromantic/asexual, although I still question the aromantic aspect today. To put it short, asexuality is an orientation where you experience sexual attraction to no gender. Aromanticism is its romantic counterpart. It’s totally possible to be one but not the other, or to be both, or to simply fall on the spectrum.
Realizing that I was asexual was simultaneously one of the most relieving and most terrifying revelations of my life. Being able to look back and see all these puzzle pieces fit together for the first time made me feel free and ecstatic, but there was the lingering question of “What now?” lingering in the back of my head.
Growing up, I always assumed I was straight. After all, I wasn’t attracted to girls, and if you’re not attracted to girls, then you’re attracted to boys (so society told me). It wasn’t something I ever thought to question: not in middle school when I made up crushes to giggle over with friends, not when the Twilight craze hit and I couldn’t understand why anyone liked Edward or Jacob, and certainly not when my friends started dating, leaving me shocked that they actually wanted to do that.
Reflecting on all the signs, it’s laughable that I ever thought I was straight – but not surprising. About every movie and show I watched featured romantic storylines or subplots. Almost every song on the radio mentions relationships at least once if they’re not the main focus. Even characters who started off impartial would eventually find love in a beautiful/dramatic twist (I’m looking at you, Sheldon Cooper). Unrequited crushes, one night stands, dead wives, love triangles, secret affairs, throes of passion…romance and sexuality are omnipresent themes in our media. Always have been.
Everybody falls in love, and everyone has a soulmate – right? I made so many rationalizations back then: I’m a late bloomer, I have high standards, I’m too shy.
Funnily enough, there was one time I came close to the truth when I was about 15. I was on the bus, just after a friendly enough guy had – I think – flirted with me. He hadn’t been intrusive in any sense – he struck up a light conversation, asked for my number, and respected my choice when I turned him down.
Obviously, this isn’t an exclusively aro/ace experience; anyone of any sexuality can feel discomfort when being hit on. But in my case, this was another in a long series of events where I was completely indifferent and even averse to objectively attractive guys. This led to a chain of questioning: Am I just gay and in denial? No, I’m not into girls. Could I be bisexual? After all, I seem to like guys the same as I like girls. No, I’m still not into girls.
Briefly, my mind wondered if I was just attracted to nobody – my brain helpfully invented the word “asexual” as a counter to “bisexual” – but I shot the thought down right away, feeling inexplicably panicked. I then concluded via process of elimination that I was indeed heterosexual.
When I was 17, I saw a link to an article about asexuality.
I clicked on it with the same neutral interest I had in topics like schizophrenia or transgenderism – I was curious, but I had no personal connection to the subject.
I never expected the way the words would punch me in the gut with how relatable they were. My heart raced, and it took about 10 minutes of anxious pacing before I returned to the computer to devour every minute detail on asexuality I could find online. It’s hard to explain the elation of something so vital just clicking.
I wanted to laugh and cry and hug myself because this was what I had been missing. I’m asexual. Always have been.
However, accepting that I was aromantic took a little more time, for the same reason I denied being asexual that day on the bus: I was scared of ending up alone. If I was aromantic and asexual, true love seemed unreachable. And that’s scary.
It’s also who I am. No changing that.
Here’s what I’ve since come to realize:
♠️ I love my family, my friends, the random dogs I see on the street. All long as I have my community, I have all the love I need.
♠️ Sexuality is fluid, anyway. Maybe I’ll wake up one morning demisexual or lesbian or straight or pan or who knows what. Only time will tell.
♠️ I’m not alone. The occasional ace meet-ups on campus may be utterly awkward, but they remind me this isn’t just all in my head. Plus, there are whole networks online I’m welcome to tap into.
For me, being aro/ace is immediately binge-watching four seasons of Bojack Horseman on Netflix after hearing that one of the main characters comes out as asexual. It’s freaking out when the black paint on my ace ring starts chipping away. It’s the freedom of never forcing myself onto dates I don’t want. It’s unapologetically gr-ace-ing the world with painfully terrible puns. It’s fervently shipping two TV characters, just never myself.
It’s confidently facing the future, knowing there’s a word, a community that I can relate to. It’s the relief of knowing I’m not broken – I’m aro/ace.