Liane Behrens. Photo by Roxanne Cooke.

Liane Behrens. Photo by Roxanne Cooke.

I had a crush on my first girlfriend for roughly two years before I asked her out. Then, when she said yes, I promptly stopped talking to her until she broke up with me via another mutual friend. My first boyfriend and I, when we had his parents’ house entirely to ourselves, went up to his room and closed the door, so we could let his ferret out of his cage without worrying. We kissed once and only once; I broke up with him less than a week later. My most successful relationship was a long-distance flirtation via daily phone calls; years later, the girl asked me why we had never kissed. I had no answer.

In college, I daydreamed about a cute girl for over a year until we went out for dinner, she left her sunglasses at my place, and I never let her know I had them, because that would mean talking to her again. I broke up with a boy (over the phone) I thought I really liked a day after he told me his mom wanted to meet me. In grad school, an undergrad invited herself to mine to watch a movie; she clearly had plans for more, but I insisted on leaving the door open so my roommate wouldn’t feel left out of the movie.

I didn’t realize I was asexual until I was 29. I had heard the word before, along with the requisite jokes about budding and micro-organisms. The idea didn’t make sense to me: so what if you never felt the urge to have sex? So what if you were repulsed by the idea of a serious romantic connection? Didn’t everyone have to turn away when two characters started kissing on TV? Didn’t everyone feel better holding hands than pressing your mouth awkwardly against someone else’s? I just had commitment problems, I knew that, and my mom assured me it would be different once I met The One.

But everyone else was already finding The One, or Ones, or at least One For Now. In fact, everyone I ever dated either is or was married or in a serious relationship. I, on the other hand, ghosted a boy after he tried to put his tongue in my mouth during the second date (I’m now learning that’s somewhat normal behavior).

I’m not lonely or alone. I have a partner, who’s my best friend and has been for years, and who turns out is even more ace than I am. We live together with our two cats, we share grocery bills and cleaning duties, and yet our partnership will never be as valid to anyone else because no matter how much we love and support each other, we’re missing one vital fact: we don’t have sex.

When my friend and I are out, people will sometimes ask us if we’re sisters or dating, and we’ll say, no, just friends, just friends, we live together, we’re roommates, but we’re just friends. I hate that “just,” because it agrees with the supposition the whole world is forcing on us: anything less than sexual partners is “just” not quite enough. It’s almost there, it’s “just.” Having sex is part of human nature, or so they say, and not being able or wanting to cultivate romantic feelings makes you like a robot, doesn’t it? How can you be human, how can you be happy, without love in your life?

In the acronym LGBTQA, or whatever version you ascribe to, I promise “A” does not stand for “ally.” Since the beginning of the queer rights movement, there has been asexual representation and asexual people fighting alongside our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer friends and family. Researchers like Magnus Hirschfield in 1896 and Alfred Kinsey in 1948 have recognized, noticed, and described asexuality.

To me, there’s no question as to whether or not asexual people belong within the queer community. There has been pushback, especially toward those who are asexual but might still experience aesthetic attraction toward people of the opposite sex; gate-keepers say that if you’re at all interested in the opposite sex, without a corresponding interest in your same sex, that you count as straight and aren’t welcome in queer circles.

But in a world so filled with heteronormativity, with such a focus on sex, being sexy, and engaging in relationships where sex is always the final goal, there’s nowhere for an asexual person to fit in, no matter what bodies that person can find aesthetically pleasing. Making spaces for ourselves, where a lack of interest in sexual or romantic connections is seen as a completely okay way to be, and being inclusive toward all orientations is what’s important. Intersectionality in queer spaces has never been more important, especially as our language and understanding evolves to include all the different ways of being.

I’m asexual. I’m happy. It’s tough knowing that a lot of people in my life can’t understand that, and I know they worry about me, that they picture a lonely life ending with me being eaten by my dozen cats in my book-filled but otherwise empty home. But there’s a million different ways to be, and just because my way doesn’t include as much sex as others’ doesn’t mean my choices will lead to unhappiness. Who could be unhappy with these many books and cats?

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