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The Asexual journal is an independent platform publishing work by asexual, aromantic, and agender authors.

Figuring it Out

Figuring it Out

You’re in middle school, and all the girls are talking about who they like, who’s “dating” who, who’s got a crush on who. You’re there, listening but not talking. You’re hoping they won’t ask you, so you fade into the background like you’re good at doing. You just want lunch to be over so you can go play soccer with the boys. Finally one of the girls turns to you.

“Who do you like?” she asks.

“I don’t know. No one,” you say, and it’s the truth. Your face feels hot, and you know you’re turning red. You know what’s coming next.

“You’re lying!” she squeals. “Everyone likes someone. Come on, tell us! Everyone else said, you have to now!” Now all of them are staring at you. They start echoing the first girl.

“I’m not!” you insist. They don’t believe you. Eventually you say the name of the “popular” boy, the one they were all talking about, just to get them to leave you alone. They squeal, proclaim how cute he is, then go back to ignoring you. You’re grateful. You have no idea what they see that’s different from what you see, but that’s OK. You’re all young. You’ll figure it out someday.

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You’re in high school, and handsy couples are making out in the hallways. You don’t understand why they feel like they need to do that right that second. Your friends are getting together, breaking up, getting together again. Everyone talks about the latest drama. You don’t understand what the point of it all is. Why would someone put themselves through that, you think as your friend tells you the latest bit of gossip about the popular couple and prom. You think everyone’s just faking it because that’s what’s cool, but you still don’t get why it’s cool.

Your youth group does a bible study one Sunday on spiritual gifts. Everyone takes a quiz at the start to see what theirs are, and then raises their hand when your pastor starts talking about their gift. When he gets to celibacy, you’re the only one that raises your hand. You swear you hear muttering around the room, but your pastor continues with the discussion. You think he says something about it being a rare, but still super important gift, but you’re too busy trying to figure out what’s wrong with the quiz. Surely this thing was designed for adults, that’s why it’s giving bad answers for a 16-year-old. Your pastor seems to notice your discomfort, and pulls you aside after the lesson. He assures you that’s it’s a great spiritual gift to have. You’re less than convinced. You’re the new kid, and this is just one other thing that makes you different. You don’t want it. You smile and nod before going to meet your family for church. There’s definitely something wrong with the quiz. You and your friends are too young for sex anyway, that’s why it’s wrong. You manage to ignore the voice pointing out that nobody else got celibacy, just you.

Rom-coms are super popular among your friends, but they bore you. You see plotlines about people cheating on each other, about ruining careers or happy, stable lives for love or sex. Why don’t you just not do that, you think to yourself, sitting in the movie theater watching some supposedly-cute-as-hell guy cheat on his supposedly-hot girlfriend with another supposedly-hot woman. You don’t understand how romance and sex could override what you see is common sense. You’re starting to think you’ve missed some kind of memo that everyone else got.

When you’re a senior, your younger brother has a girlfriend and gets caught with a used condom in his trash can. You wonder if your parents snuck him the memo when you weren’t looking, but chose not to give it to you.

The condom incident makes your mom notice that you’re not into dating or sex the way the rest of your friends seem to be. She asks if you like girls, says it’s OK if you do, you can tell her. You realize you hadn’t thought of that. You feel like you’d know if you liked girls, and you don’t want to be any ‘weirder’ than you already feel (you had some unfortunate hangups from your upbringing at the time), so you tell her no, you’re straight. You tell her you’re just focused on other things: school, soccer, getting into a good college. You tell her you’ll just get to it later. You tell yourself that, too, and you believe it. College, you think, college is where I’ll figure it out.

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Your first week at college you meet a guy. Same major, same interests, and super fun to be around. He becomes your best friend, and you spend the next five years trying to convince yourself that this is what everyone makes a fuss about. It doesn’t feel any different from what you feel towards your other friends, but every single book, movie, and TV show you’ve seen says that it should be. You should want more, but you don’t, so you spend more time with him to make it happen. He is a legitimately good guy, so it seems safe with him. You wonder what’s wrong with you when you never want anything more than what you already have.

One of your friends asks if you’re a lesbian when it’s just the two of you at lunch. You were expecting the question, had seen her building up to it, so you’re ready. You don’t get flustered this time when you say no, you like guys, you just haven’t had the opportunity to act on it yet, and it doesn’t help that you’re a tomboy who likes guys’ clothes and major in STEM. She smiles, nods, tells you she can understand that, and you both move on. You breathe a sigh of relief when she gets up to go get some pie.

One night, you and your roommates are watching Avengers. They’re talking about how hot Chris Hemsworth is as Thor. You’re tired, a little drunk maybe, and you trust them, so you jump in without thinking.

“Yeah, I guess I don’t see it. He’s not hot to me. Guess he’s not my type.”

“Then who is your type?” they ask, of course. That’s the next logical question.

You freeze. You don’t know how to answer. Panicked, you glance at the screen. Hulk and Iron Man are in the lab on the helicarrier. You love this scene. They’re your favorite characters in this movie. They must be your type, right?

“I dunno, I guess Robert Downey Jr.?” you finally answer, hoping they haven’t caught your hesitation and that your response sounds more like a question than a statement.

“Ew, he’s so old,” they cry. You shrug, trying to look nonchalant, but you’re panicking. You messed it up. They’re going to catch you lying. They’ll know you missed the memo that everyone else got back in middle school, the one you were too busy with school and soccer to worry about too much.

“I dunno, he’s smart, I guess. I like Mark Ruffalo, too.” They accept that answer, and everyone goes back to the movie. You take a deep breath, quietly relieved that they didn’t press further.

Sometime during these years is when you hear the word “asexual” for the first time. You’re reading a Reddit thread late one night, and an asexual person is describing how they view the world. It’s familiar. It’s like they’re in your head, like they lived your childhood, like they know how you’re feeling now. But I’m straight, you think, they’re just making something up to feel special. Everyone feels this way. They have to. I’m normal. Right?

So close, yet so far. You’re not ready to figure it out.

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You’re in grad school. You’re still a virgin at 23, and it’s starting to rankle. You still don’t understand how or why people go about changing that, but you know you should have figured it out by now. Everyone else has. Either that, or they’re all faking it. You’ll just have to fake it until you get it, too, right?

There’s a guy you think might be hitting on you, a soccer teammate of one of the other grad students in your year. The other students encourage you to go for it. You don’t know how, or even if you should. You’re only supposed to have sex with someone if you’re attracted to them, right? You don’t feel anything different with him, and he’s a bit of an asshole, but he’s the only one apparently showing interest. This might be your only chance to finally “get it,” since you squandered your chance in undergrad. He eventually moves away, and secretly you’re relieved you never actually slept with him. You go back to focusing on work and classes. I’m too busy right now anyway, you think. I’ll figure it out later.

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Three years later, still in grad school, you’re reading a piece of fanfiction about this D&D show that you watch. It’s a series of character studies, and the author has written one character as asexual and another as demisexual. The characters both resonate with you. Their internal monologue matches yours almost exactly. You remember the Reddit thread from several years ago, so you know what asexual means, but you have no idea what demisexual is. You Google it and find AVEN. You go to their FAQ pages, and the more you read, the more pieces of your life slot neatly into place.

The girls in middle school and the handsy couples in high school weren’t just faking it to fit in. They really felt that. You didn’t miss a memo that everyone else got, because there was no memo. You’re different from them, but you’re not alone. You’re not broken. All these other people feel the same way. They don’t think Thor is hot, they don’t need sex to feel complete. I’m asexual, you think, and you’re so relieved you almost cry.

Something else doesn’t feel right, though. Some of these people who feel like you have relationships; they feel the need to have significant others, but you still don’t get that. You have your friends, you have your family, and you love them all. What else could you possibly want?

The author of the fanfiction releases a new story in the series, this time with an aromantic character. He resonates with you almost as strongly as the other two. You go back to Google, and learn about aromanticism. There are other people who don’t get rom-coms, there are other people who never get crushes! Things don’t slot into place as neatly as before, but it still feels right. I’m asexual and aromantic, you decide, and again you feel relief.

The voice in the back of your head telling you that you missed something isn’t gone, but it’s quieter. It’s easier to ignore, even when it’s telling you you’re broken and wrong, and only breaks through in your lowest moments. You still fake attraction sometimes to people you think wouldn’t understand, but your friends that do understand make it easier. When the topic comes up, they’re quick to deflect attention from you or change the subject before the limelight hits you. They don’t make jokes about you being the odd one out or finding you a significant other anymore. They don’t make you go to rom-coms with them, and you make fun of the romance storylines in comic book movies together. You don’t have to lie to them, and they believe you when you say you don’t get crushes or can’t tell who’s hot and who’s not. It’s nice.

You’ve finally figured it out.

When I Found My Asexual Heart

When I Found My Asexual Heart

Siren Seeking Sailor

Siren Seeking Sailor