The no-sex thing has never really been that big a problem. What has made things difficult is that I’m still capable of physical attraction and emotional connection. Love, in other words. After all, love is not sex and sex is not love. They’re two completely different things. As a society, we’re completely fine with sex without love, so why not the other way around?
I find the same things attractive in both genders. A nice smile, a great personality, intelligence, a sense of humour. I feel all the usual things; love and affection, disappointment, envy and jealousy. And hurt. I’ve always been really good at feeling hurt.
In 2011, I developed some feelings for a friend. Her name was Eliza*. We’d been friends for a while and the more time we spent together, the more I started to care about her. I’ve been attracted to women several times in my life, but it’s always difficult. You read the signals and your own feelings as best you can, but sometimes you get them very wrong.
With Eliza, I agonised over my feelings for weeks and eventually decided to articulate them to her in a letter. She was kind and understanding. At first, anyway.
I had my first experience with depression soon after. Work was shit, I was already burned-out and I just wanted someone to talk to. I wanted someone to care. I thought I could confide in Eliza. I thought I could be open with her, be myself and still be accepted.
I suppose Eliza concluded that I wanted something she just couldn’t give and in the end, she told me she wanted nothing more to do with me. Which hurt. A lot. One of the last things she said to me was, “When I see you now, all I feel is dread.”
This experience made me feel worthless, that I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone. It made me feel completely unlovable; that I could never be myself, because people just wouldn’t like what they saw. As a result, I became closed-off to pretty much everyone.
I felt like I was in a deep hole that I just couldn’t climb out of. This was the first time I actually couldn’t function at work so I went and saw my doctor. I just remember crying, uncontrollably.
My doctor sent me to see a psychologist, which was my first experience with formal counselling. She was very nice, but I just couldn’t tell her about any of this. I saw her for three sessions and that was it.
I made a huge error of judgement in Eliza, she just wasn’t the person I thought she was. But in that way, she was exactly the right person. Rejection hurts, sure. Of course it does. But I always get over it. It’s the prospect of getting into a relationship that frightens me. Paralyses me. The thought of having that conversation. I’ve played it over and over in my mind, a thousand times. Every possible scenario. Every confused look, every awkward silence and every painful question.
Q: Asexual? So you’re neither female nor male?
A: That’s not what it means. I can assure you I’m all-female. And a fully functioning one, at that.
Q: Asexual? Why? What happened to you?
A: What do you mean “why”? It just is. Nothing happened to make me this way. What happened to make you tall?
Q: Asexual? Does that mean you’re capable of spontaneous cell division?
A: No, not that I’m aware of. I’m not an amoeba. But the science geek in me acknowledges the science geek in you.
Q: Asexual? How do you know if you’ve never tried it? Maybe you just haven’t met the right person.
Of course, not everyone would think and respond in these ways, but I suppose the cop in me has prepared for the worst. I have always had this belief that to be different is to be judged, ridiculed and rejected. So I try to fit in. When I can’t fit in, I run and hide.
Whenever I’m going through something I don’t want someone to see, I run and hide. I suppose this is an act of desperation, born out of the need for survival. It’s like fleeing a crime scene. This is a tactic I employed a long time ago. It’s so ingrained I don’t even have to think about doing it.
Asexuality is known as the invisible orientation. Around 2% of the population identifies as asexual, which I suppose is what I am. Actually, bi-romantic is probably the more accurate term. So I am fundamentally different from most people, that is a fact.
I’ve been single for most of my adult life, so it’s something I’ve gotten used to. And I’ve always been independent. But there are many times it really sucks to be single and that’s the part of it that makes me sad. At times, overwhelmingly sad.
I’ve loved more than once and it always feels the same. You know that feeling – that initial giddy rush when you’re incapable of seeing anything but good in the world? Well, for me that always gives way to intense sadness and fear because I know it’s only going to end in heartbreak.
Love is everything they said it would be Love made sweet and sad the same
– Jane Siberry
I have always believed that I would never love someone who would love me back, knowing all there is to know about me. The odds were just stacked too heavily against it. I felt that the most I could ask for was someone who would tolerate me and what I have to offer. “I can offer you my love”, I would imagine myself saying. “I can offer you my affection, my support, my attention, my loyalty. Will you let me love you?”
Emotional scars are the only kind that really bother me – sometimes it seems I have more that I can count. I think I’ve reacted to each new scar the same way; by withdrawing further and further into myself. I was always pretty sure nobody could see my scars, but I worried about them constantly. I did everything I could to hide them because I thought they were ugly and I worried what people would think.
I’ve spent the last year working with a terrific psychologist and it’s because of her that I’m finally able to talk about any of this. It’s because of her that I was able to work through all the work stuff that lay dormant for years. I’m working now to heal the last of my scars and I suppose I’ve started that process by making peace with who I am. Yes, I’m different, but I think I’m okay with that.
Because how can I expect anyone else to accept me until I have accepted myself?
Q: Asexual? That’s cool. You want to get a coffee?
A: Yes. Yes, I do.
(*not her real name)