A Few Things Your Asexual Colleagues or Friends Might Want You To Know
Asexuality is probably the lowest-visibility sexual orientation, one of the rarest, and definitely one of the least understood. There’s no history of persecution of asexuals and most of us have never encountered the same kind of bigotry that homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexual people do. And let’s face it, an asexuality pride parade probably wouldn’t be that provocative.
So why this article? It’s better being understood rather than not. It’s good to be able to bring your whole self and all your perspectives to work without being misunderstood or without awkwardness. Teens and young asexuals can really struggle with understanding their identity and the more people who know and understand, the better.
Thanks to work from organizations like the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network and from openly asexual people (including comedian Janeane Garofalo), many adults have at least heard of asexuality. But there are a few things that aren’t common knowledge.
Asexuality Does Really Exist
The first thing important thing to understand is that asexuality exists. Virtually every open asexual has had somebody tell them, with varying levels of condescension, that asexuality isn’t real or that they can’t possibly be asexual. Often you hear “You just need to meet the right person.” “Were you traumatized as a child?” “That doesn’t exist.”
At one workplace, a colleague sagely told me, “You’re not asexual. I thought I was asexual for a while but I wasn’t.” (What made that even odder was that she was a member of the Diversity Team at that organization.) A lot of people consciously or unconsciously measure others as being more or less different from themselves. He’s more introverted than I, she’s better at technology, he’s less assertive, etc.. When something like sexuality is absent, these folks are at a loss.
Others even feel a bit threatened or alienated by it. If sex is important to me, and it’s not at all important to you, that’s too big a difference between us. This is related to the way that some heterosexual people feel threatened by homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender identity, a way of rejecting differences.
Celibacy is a Choice, Asexuality is an Orientation.
On a related note, asexuality is not the same thing as celibacy. People who are celibate are capable of feeling sexual desire but have chosen, as a lifestyle, not to respond to it. Asexuals don’t feel sexual desire. They may want romance or for the social perks that go with having a partner, but the bottom line is that they don’t want sex. It’s also not the same as having diminished sexual desire due to external circumstances, such as the side effects of some medications or the symptoms of some illnesses.
Most Asexuals are Happy as We Are
The idea that life without sex or sexual relationships can be happy and complete can be hard for people with a sex drive to comprehend. But for most of us, if you don’t want it, you can’t lack it.
Think about eating. There are all kind of wonderful things in the world that we humans love to eat or that we know nourishes us. However, while rabbits and deer and horses eat grass, we humans don’t. Do you feel that not eating grass means that you’re missing out on something important? Probably not, because you’re not wired to look at grass and think “yum.” You probably aren’t disgusted by the idea, you know that if for some reason you had to, you could, but you just don’t feel the urge.
You probably aren’t disgusted by the idea, you know that if for some reason you had to, you could, but you just don’t feel the urge.
There are things that asexuals miss out on. There are a lot of societal perks that go with being part of a couple. Some of these are just the way a society and its economy work when most people are paired off, such as hotel rooms and prices being based on double occupancy and holidays and other celebrations geared to couples. Others are based on the stigma that there’s something wrong with a person who doesn’t have a partner and never has. The person must be too fussy, too flawed, or is somehow otherwise a failure at interpersonal relationships.
But aside from those inconveniences and occasional judgments, you don’t miss what you don’t want.
So what does this boil down to?
Don’t tell us our orientation doesn’t exist.
Don’t assume that somebody who’s never had a partner wants one or needs to be set up with somebody.
Don’t stigmatize us.