This is Ace Week. It is the week meant to help further awareness of asexuality across the world. Ace Week is something I anticipate and find delight in every year, ever since finding out I was asexual at 26.
The reason behind my passion all ties back to my own individual story behind finding out I am asexual. My passion for asexuality stems from my long and meandering story through angst and inner turmoil to finding peace with myself and my own personal truth.
My story is a story of convolution. As a kid growing up in Oklahoma, squarely in the middle of the Bible Belt, there was no discussion of sex in school. While my hometown squarely in the Bible Belt has many great people and gave me plenty of great childhood joys, my school was not allowed to talk about certain things in sex ed, like condoms, birth control, and anything past abstinence-only pedagogy. There were no discussions to include people who were gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or (in my case) asexual. Throughout my school years, I had never even heard the word asexual mentioned one time in school.
School is not the easiest place to fit in as an LGBTQ person. I can verify this as an ace personally.
Statistics also verify this as well.
A study published in USA Today by Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE) found that less than 8.2% of LGBTQ students are receiving inclusive sex education in school, and that has led to great complications against LGBTQ people. In the United States, only seven states along with Washington D.C. require sex ed to be LGBTQ inclusive, while six states (Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) have what are deemed No Promo Homo laws in place, prohibiting any mentioning of anything related to LGBTQ rights and issues in school.
The lack of sex education in school is leading to greater harm for LGBTQ children in school, being manifested in higher rates of bullying from peers. In the states with laws that prohibit the positive discussion of LGBTQ sexuality in school health and sex education classes, students were more likely to hear homophobic remarks from school staff, less likely to report feeling supported by school staff, less likely to receive an effective response to harassment from school staff, and less likely to have LGBTQ resources in schools such as comprehensive anti-harassment/assault policies, inclusive school health services, or Gender-Sexuality Alliances.
The GLSEN Research Institute found that when LGBTQ students do not see their identities, experiences, and communities reflected in school curricula, they are less likely to feel comfortable speaking with their teachers about LGBTQ issues, less likely to feel safe at school, and face greater rates of harassment.
Not having comprehensive and inclusive sex education in school is causing great harm to children, and I feel their pain as it reflected my experiences in school.
Growing up in a school where everybody around me was super horny and craving sex only left me out of the loop and consequently outcast to the shadows of school social life.
If you watch any high school movie, a big part of any high school experience is to go to parties, homecoming, prom, and live it up for your senior year.
Living it up in high school usually involves sexual trysts.
That’s the common trope of senior year, whether you think it’s wrong or right.
Being in school where everyone else had an appetite for sex made me feel out of place because I didn’t share those same feelings and couldn’t relate to what they were feeling. I felt lost, deeply lost growing up in my own hometown.
The lack of great sex education growing up only added to the confusion and anxiety I felt as a teenager, throwing more gasoline onto my flames of insecurity. Sure, one could say that every teenager feels some levels of insecurity, as teenagers go through what Eric Ericson called his fifth stage of psychosocial development – Identity vs Role Confusion.
Growing up as an asexual without a term to describe myself left me befuddled, unsure of who and what I am as a person.
Growing up as an asexual teenager in school left me feeling more misfit than belonging to any group.
I never drank, I never smoked, I never chewed tobacco, like so many of the people around me did. I also never had sex—a fact that hasn’t changed in my 31 years on Earth.
The fact I had never had sex left me an outcast at school. Most days I walked alone.
I remember a conversation in class during a free day where everyone started to talk about sex, and I was just sitting back not really sure how to react. Everyone was talking about what kind of sex they have, what kind of condoms they use, and how they are ready to start having babies. It was all such an incredible shock because I didn’t feel the same way they felt. Everyone else communicated in a language I couldn’t and the barrier left me feeling more alienated than E.T.
Though I tried to fit in and tried to act like the cool kids, I simply was wearing shoes too big to fill. I never could convince myself I could be like them. I just didn’t have the programming they seemed to innately have.
I told my parents that I never wanted to have children and never wanted to have sex. My parents didn’t believe me.
When I told my friends I wasn’t interested in kids, they looked at me as some freak of nature—as if I had turned into a cyclops.
Because of my assertions that I would never get married, have kids, along with my commitment to “abstinence”, everyone thought there was something bizarre about me. There were constant rumors flying around me.
I heard everything. I couldn’t get anyone. I was lying. I was hiding some weird secret. I was in the closet. I am secretly gay and denying it. I had people call me all sorts of derogatory slurs under the assumption that I was gay.
Their words did hurt.
I would have welcomed being gay. It would have given me the clarity that I was always looking for yet found so elusive. If I were truly gay, I would have been more than thrilled.
I knew I wasn’t attracted to men, so I knew I wasn’t gay. However, I also knew I wasn’t really straight like all the other straight people I knew, either. I didn’t feel anything for anyone.
Because of that, I didn’t know where I fit. I’m not gay, I’m not straight. I’m not anything.
I would spend the next eight years after high school searching for the answer. Those years were full of deep mental pain and anguish.
Growing up, there were no asexual characters on television. There was no Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman. There were no Voodoo from Sirens, no Raphael Santiago from Shadowhunters, no Misty Day from American Horror Story. There wasn’t anyone on television I could look at and say that’s me.
Compounding all the lack of representation was a lack of sex education in school telling me that asexuality was a sexual orientation I might actually be.
Both of these things in conjunction led me to feel like I was somehow defective, broken, or dysfunctional, when in reality I am just different.
For years after high school, I questioned myself, tried to fix myself, tried to “convert” myself into being like everyone else, in order to fit the heteronormative script society expected of me. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts were always unsuccessful. If someone had come to me and mentioned that I may be asexual after all, that there’s nothing wrong with being ace, and that sex isn’t everything, I would have been over the moon.
If someone when I was younger would have told me that not everyone wants sex, that you don’t have to try sex, and that it’s perfectly okay to not want sex also, it would have saved me years of anguish and self-doubt. Compulsory sexuality put massive weight onto my psyche, driving me neurotic some days. It would have saved me years of experiencing crushing and somewhat debilitating anxiety and peer pressure, feeling pressure to conform in order to be “human.”
I finally found peace of mind when I discovered at 26 that I am asexual, but I would have loved to have discovered the truth much earlier in life.
If I had an LGBTQ inclusive sex education class growing up, where I could have learned about all the various gender identities and sexual orientations (including asexuality), I probably would have avoided so much of the mental anxiety I felt when I was younger. I can’t speak for sure about what might have been, but I can venture to say that if I had an LGBTQ sex education course when I was in school, I would have been better off in the long run.