This is not a love story, so let’s not start with hello. Let’s start with a goodbye. Then again, I’m not sure if I can actually say goodbye to something that I never even wanted — but let me explain.
My first week of college. I “come out” for the first time during Never Have I Ever, a game that I’ve always hated because it tends to get dirty. Not that I think sex is “dirty;” purity and chastity are dumb concepts. Never Have I Ever just reminds me of how different I am from everyone else — or rather, how differently they feel about sex. But I’ll listen to everyone’s stories, because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m almost relieved when no one comments on mine.
High school. Two high schools. I go to two high schools in two different states and I figure that I’m not the problem: It’s just the lack of ideal choices. Can you blame a girl for being selective? People start to talk about sexuality more. Homosexuality, pansexuality, bisexuality — but no one ever talks about asexuality. I find out about it on the internet, and I start to wonder. I wonder what it would be like to “come out.” Do I get to say that, if it doesn’t even affect anyone? It’s not like I’ll ever be “available.” I don’t want anyone in the physical sense, but the thought that no one will want me at all is the feeling that sticks.
It’s 2009 and I’m in middle school. I’m supposed to like boys by now. Or girls, but no one around me seems to talk about that yet. Doesn’t matter, because I don’t like either of them. I’m convinced that it’s a phase, like I’m just a few steps away from being ready in this scary new department. I know how it’s supposed to go — cutesy kids grow into horny teenagers who “explore” in college. I go through sixth grade waiting for an epiphany, then seventh and eighth grade; I go through all of high school and my freshman year at Yale, and nothing changes except for my self-perception. I’ve spent nearly 10 years searching for my sexuality, and I’ve only just begun to fill in the blanks of what I thought I was missing.
So, what’s it like, being asexual? Being asexual is not wanting to be touchy-feely with people — even the ones whom I find attractive — but still getting just a little bit jealous when my friends talk about the comfort of closeness. Being asexual is casually deflecting inquiry about relationships, because there’s not enough time in the week to explain it to everyone who asks. Being asexual is feeling twisted and relieved when people complain about the tedium of hook-ups. I hold onto anything that will stop me from feeling like I’m missing out because of who I am. Being asexual does not mean that I never want to be in a meaningful relationship; it just means that I have no desire for sex. Being asexual is wondering whether I’ve gotten it all wrong, and maybe I just need to “give it a try” — but the second an opportunity emerges, I feel repulsed. Not by the person, but by the thought of engaging in anything beyond hanging out.
Most importantly, being asexual is wanting to explain myself, even though I shouldn’t have to. Being asexual is wondering whether my preference, or lack thereof, even deserves a category. Once, my childhood friend of 10 years asked another friend if I was lesbian — not because of the way that I interacted with girls, but because I clearly wasn’t interested in any boys. It just goes to show that the default assumption is never a total lack of interest. If you’re not straight, then you must be gay, because who’s crazy enough to not want sex at all? In college, it’s hard to accept that I’m on the asexual spectrum and still feel as if I completely belong. Everyone’s busy experimenting or talking about how they’ve experimented. It’s hard to find anyone who openly feels the way I do. No one gets offended by it, at least — instead, I get ambiguous eyebrow raises and an “Oh … interesting,” because they don’t know what to say in response. But that’s the problem: If people don’t think or talk about asexuality, how can it ever become visible on this campus? How will I ever feel like I belong?
That’s why I’m saying goodbye — not to the prospect of having a meaningful relationship in the future or to the hope that people will one day speak more openly about asexuality — but to the idea that I need sex to make me whole. I do belong on this campus and everywhere beyond it. After all, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting — and I’m finally fine with that.
Contact Catherine Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org .