I am very aware of the fact that I am perceived as male in society, regardless of my existence as an demiguy. I guess you could say that I’m “read” as a man. Therefore, when I say that I’m attracted to men, I’m instantly perceived to be gay, no questions asked. But, despite the gender identity conflicts, what does it really mean to be perceived as gay? Is gayness only based in sex, or can gayness be understood via a more expansive form of attraction, that may or may not be sexual? How does this intersect with gay men specifically?
If I’m attracted to men, but don’t want to have sex with men, where does this leave me? In my life, I feel a general attraction to men. It’s evident when I look at a man and think to myself something along the lines of: “oh, he’s cute.” I’ve been attracted to men all of my life. This type of attraction could be perceived as highly aesthetic and sensual, yet never sexual, for the plain reason that attraction dissipates at the thought of sex with anyone, including men.
If I am aroused or “turned on” by a man, but still don’t want to have sex with that man, where does this leave me? As an asexual who is attracted to men, I am often aroused and “turned on” by men. This is deeply entwined with my own personal or erotic desires. Yet, while my arousal to that man indicates that my body may be physiologically responding to what I am perceiving, as soon as sex is introduced, the response dissipates or becomes nonexistent.
If I am attracted to men’s bodies more generally, but I am left feeling indifferent or (essentially always) repulsed by their genitalia, where does this leave me? To put it simply, I am attracted to men’s bodies. I appreciate a nice chest, some face, some arms, etc. in my life. But, to put it bluntly, their genitalia is not for me. “Dick pics,” (if the man in question even has a dick to begin with) as they may be referred to commonly, only leave me repulsed. I’d rather receive the image cropped or not receive it all.
When I say that I’m asexual and attracted to men, I’m often perceived as simply being in the closet or afraid to admit that I’m “fully gay” or “want to have sex with men.” In this sense, being asexual has simply become a “cover-up” or a mechanism that I’m allegedly using to deny my full “gayness.” I am lying about my “true” identity because I am concerned about how I am or will be perceived. I have one foot out of the closet, and one foot left within.
Or, as the comment above illustrates (as well as the not included thread of replies), left on BuzzFeed LGBT’s video compilation of ace people (of which I was included), there may be other reasons. My asexuality is simply inhibiting me or being used to cover the fact that I’m “super nervous or something” to experience gay sex. In this sense, my asexuality is invalidated as being produced by social introversion or anxiety, rather than actually being a potential and valid state of being. Couple this with being attracted to men, and everything suddenly becomes even more complicated.
When I have “come out” to people who have claimed to be accepting of gay people and queer people, I’m often met with words of encouragement and support as I reveal my attraction to men or “gayness,” yet quickly receive expressions of confusion or disbelief when I reveal that I am also asexual. To be gay and asexual is to coexist in conflict. Gay male asexuals are especially unintelligible, perceived as embodying male gayness, a highly sexualized identity category, and asexuality, a highly nonsexualized identity category.
Navigating this conflict has pushed me to explore new identities, such as being a homoromantic asexual. However, lately I have felt disconnected from identifying as “romantically attracted” to anyone. Should I then refer to myself as a homosensual and homoaesthetic asexual man? Then, what of my demiguy identity? Is there a usefulness in engaging in hyper-differentiation, or should I simply remain where I am perceived, as a gay man? It has proven difficult enough to assert my asexuality and existence as a demiguy within the confines of this category of gay manhood. But, could it also be useful?
My strong resonance with gayness throughout my life, despite my gender identity, has pushed me to consider how expanding the boundaries of what it means to be gay could be useful. Should engagement in sex remain what determines one’s relationship to gayness or the gay male identity? Should one only identify as gay if they want to have sex with the “same sex”? And therefore, is one only gay because they have sex? This is a difficult issue of identity management to grapple with, and one that I have not yet sorted out.
Michael Paramo is an asexual Latinx demiguy located in southern California. They are currently a graduate student who has been selected to present their research at national conferences, such as by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music's U.S. branch, the Popular Culture Association, as well as the National Women's Studies Association. They are the founder of The Asexual and the Editor-in-Chief of The Asexual journal. Twitter: @Michael_Paramo