I remember the first time I found out there was a word for the way I felt. When asked by a friend if I was asexual, I responded: what?
I’m used to this response from others now, on the rare occasions that I attempt to explain my sexuality. For those who don’t know, asexuality refers to someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. It’s entirely different from celibacy or abstinence. It doesn’t mean those people can’t have meaningful romantic relationships or even engage in sexual activity. And it most certainly doesn’t mean that they “just haven’t met the right person yet.”
Although these misconceptions are annoying they aren’t the real reasons I usually refrain from sharing my identity. Firstly, it’s honestly nobody’s business but mine. I wouldn’t go around telling people about my sex life so I don’t feel the need to tell them about my lack of one. And secondly, people get really uncomfortable when you bring up sex.
I think this is one of the reasons I never knew to identify as asexual until I was close to sixteen years old. For years I had felt off about the crushes I got (partly because I was dealing with the added bonus of same-sex attraction). I never knew that not having sexual attraction was an option because the society I grew up in never wanted to talk about sex at all. The only information I got was from TV shows and they, obviously, didn’t have any accurately portrayed asexual characters.
In school health classes, heterosexual sex is awkwardly and briefly discussed. Biology classes will sometimes cover basic anatomy. Even my amazing and conscientious parents beat around the bush a bit. It’s a human and an understandable response to an uncomfortable topic, but it’s still a mistake. Because not talking about sex leaves kids like me thoroughly confused. It took a lot of time spent on my own research, much erasing of Google searches, and help from informative websites like asexuality.org to finally figure out that who I am is okay.
As we take the world by storm and start conversations about being gay or transgender, we need to remember not to forget that the A doesn’t stand for Ally. It stands for Asexual. Because while whatever you’re feeling is okay, whatever you’re NOT feeling is okay too.
Shira Gottfried is a junior in high school and an active member of her school's GSA.