It’s quite strange when you have lived your life as a straight man only to be confounded with the possibility that you’re not. I only have come to terms with being aromantic asexual this year after much questioning and reflecting on my life. I always felt I was an outcast since I was a child never able to fit normally to what was expected of a heterosexual man in American society.
Along with the expectations of growing up as a boy, I was also first-generation from immigrant parents who left their small rancho in Zacatecas, Mexico to arrive and settle in Los Angeles. The pressure of making your family proud so that their journey to the US and working their lives away to provide for you was not “in vain” weighs heavily on one’s conscious. Attending public schools where I encountered patriarchy, racism, and homophobia within institutions and friend circles, I assumed being straight was my “natural” state of being as I was navigating family and school life.
I was a “typical guy” interested in dating and sex. However, I never actively pursued these desires for a reason I could never quite explain. I never felt like I was “in love” or sexually attracted to people the way other people would describe their relationships, and since I lacked the language to explain my desires, I felt shame for not having those experiences. Because having sexual and romantic relationships proves one’s masculinity to others, I never felt accomplished as a person. As I entered my twenties, my friend circles, especially among men, were always in competition to prove our masculinity either by humiliating one another or telling tales of our sexual prowess. In these conversations, I would lie about my sexual activity rather then be given a pity talk about how one day I would enter the game of sexual conquest. I don’t remember much from these years, only that I experienced deep feelings of self-hatred, isolation, alienation and anxiety.
I was caught in the web of amatonormativity: socialized to believe that romance would eventually appear in my life and that a special person would bring me purpose and harmony that was missing in my life. We live in a society where monogamous romantic relationships are valued over non-romantic non-monogamous relationships. Not being in one, I internalized this as a character flaw. Our society values friendships as a means to an end. Being romantic and sexual are the objectives and if these “needs” are not met, then the relationship is perceived as not worth being maintained. It’s a sad reality when most people’s ideas of friendship are nothing more than toleration of the presence of others, as if they are awaiting in a space of purgatory ready for that special someone to arrive in our lives.
Amatonormativity and heteronormativity both create the societal norms which influence how we relate to one another and identify as individuals. Therefore, when we reinforce them as normal through our actions and words we are reproducing them in our daily lives as the “norm.” For much of my life masculinity strangled me. It’s only when I began questioning and identifying as aromantic asexual that I began to disassociate from becoming the “Man” that society, my family, and my friends molded me to internalize as a genuine desire. I was always a failure at being a man. Now, I can be an artist: losing and recreating myself in the beauty that is being queer and all its multiplicity.