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Sexuality

Asexuality: Heidi’s story

Heidi, 17, talks about how they realised they were asexual, and why asexual people are a valid part of the LGBT+ community.

In this piece Heidi talks about their sex-repulsion and how this was a large factor in discovering their asexuality. This isn’t the case for everyone; some asexual people enjoy and have sex, and this piece is representative of Heidi’s unique perspective on asexuality.

Find out more about asexuality and other sexuality terms

You know that unsettling, mildly disgusting moment upon realising that you are alive, and that therefore, at some point, your parents had sex?

That’s essentially how my brain reacts to the whole concept.

Although I’ve never shared it publicly before, I imagine that declaring that the first signs of my asexuality came around the age of 11 might raise some eyebrows. But I will anyway! My primary school sex education lessons left me confused, grossed out (my baby ace* brain not comprehending why anyone would do this), and frankly terrified for the future. This, unsurprisingly, was the general consensus between my friends at the time. However, they seemed completely resigned to – and unbothered by – the fact that we would all end up doing it at some point.

I, on the other hand, distinctly remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine ever being comfortable with the idea of having sex. With anyone.

It’s once again not a surprise that I didn’t bring these concerns –  somehow, over 6 years of intermittent primary and secondary school RSE, I was not once taught that sex is optional.

As I grew up, I remember that these feelings never changed. Being alloromantic**, and discovering I was bisexual about a year later, I always wanted a big, beautiful romance with mountain climbing and star-gazing and getting lost in forests with someone I loved – just without the sex bit. The idea of looking at a person and feeling a desire to have sex with them, rather than just helplessly admire how pretty they were, never even occurred to me.

Luckily, and unlike so many other young ace people, I’ve had access to the asexual label for as long as I can recall, and don’t even remember the moment I found it.

But I refused to identify outwardly as ace for a long time because I thought I was too young to know, and that I might start feeling something later on in life.

Probably a part of this was worry of judgement from others: I assumed no one would take me seriously, especially because conversations around sex were so non-existent in most of my relationships and so I had few words to describe exactly what my feelings (or lack of feelings) were.

Something else that gets to me even to this day is not feeling ‘queer enough’ as a result of my asexuality. It’s difficult to navigate the intersection of being romantically attracted to all genders, but not sexually attracted to anyone. The LGBTQ+ community and culture is so often associated with sex, and sexuality is almost always discussed in this context (such as lesbians often being defined exclusively as women who are sexually attracted to women).

While the normalisation of both romantic and sexual relationships are both so important when it comes to LGBTQ+ liberation, I wish that it was talked about more in our community that it’s possible to have a queer identity that doesn’t involve sex.

The first time I did voice any of this was at age 13, when my partner at the time wanted to try sexting. The only way I can describe my initial response to this was shock, and confusion, and immense discomfort. I hadn’t realised that anyone was getting those feelings at our age, just assuming everyone felt the same as me. I’m still grateful towards my younger self for being able to say no straight away. Pretty much out of desperation for the conversation to end, I told them I might be asexual. Then after that, I didn’t talk to anyone about it for three years. Not the best experience.

Over those three years, as I’ve said, nothing changed. I told myself to wait until I reached the age of consent before putting a name to my sexuality, as though that would magically alter my capacity for attraction or give me some automatic legitimacy to define myself. It didn’t. I got to 16 and was still convinced that I should wait longer, perhaps until I was 18, the age at which a friend had once told me one’s libido should reach its peak. But that proved too much. I got tired of denying myself the label that I knew made me feel at home.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of language that we use to articulate our most important, most intimate feelings.

Now I can say that in terms of my self image, confidence and relationship with my body, the decision to unapologetically call myself asexual was one of the best I have made in my life.

I came out at Pride 2021, by brandishing a fan adorned with the ace flag colours right before the parade and basically sobbing into my friends’ shoulders for a few minutes whilst they told me how proud they were.

I’m so grateful for the support and the resources I’ve had access to throughout my life, and for those on a journey even remotely similar to my own, I hope these nuggets of information that I wish I knew might provide a similar sort of comfort:

  • Asexuality is a beautiful and valid queer identity in its own right
  • You don’t have to ‘just try’ anything, not even once, before identifying as asexual
  • You are never too young to know who you are

*‘Ace’ is short for asexual
**’Alloromantic’ means someone who experiences romantic attraction but not sexual attraction

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