I am a mother. A pastor’s wife. A teacher. An Adventist. I love Star Trek. I have a cat. And I am asexual. It took me over 30 years to discover that last part. Let’s start basic. According to Wikipedia, the source of much of my cultural knowledge, asexuality is “The lack of sexual attraction to anyone, or low or absent interest in sexual activity.” There are many different types of people who identify as asexual, but since this is my story and not a guide to understanding asexuality, I’ll just say that I am what’s called a “romantic asexual” as opposed to “aromantic asexual.” That means I fall in love. I have an orientation (heterosexual). I identify with a gender (cis female). I just don’t want to have sex. Not with anyone. Not ever.
This made me really judgy in my younger unmarried years. I saw my friends struggling to remain abstinent in their premarital relationships and I was puzzled. Don’t they have any self-control? Can’t they just make a decision and stick to it? I never seem to have problems! I made a commitment to remain pure and… you know… it’s not even that hard!
But after I got married things got difficult. I thought sex would be this mind-blowing experience that TV and culture says it will be. I thought there was something wrong with me. I spent hours talking things through with my poor husband. I went to see two different doctors. Neither of them were helpful. One of them told me I was a freak. I went to see two separate therapists. One of them told me that I didn’t like sex because my husband was doing it wrong.
Our culture is very heavily sexualized. On TV or in the movies if someone doesn’t want to have sex it’s because there is something wrong with them or because they are repulsed by their partner in some way. But that was not the case with me. I am head-over-heels crazy about my husband. I can’t imagine living without him. I just don’t want to have sex with him. And that brought with it some incredible shame. I was convinced I was broken. That I needed to be fixed. I have never met a person who identifies as asexual. I have never seen one portrayed on TV or in the movies. The weight that I carried with me all the time was crushing. I would avoid my husband when I knew it had been awhile since we were together. I would pretend to be exhausted. I started wearing baggy unflattering clothes around the house hoping to deter him. It was miserable for both of us. Any romantic activity would trigger my crushing shame and I associated all romantic touch with that shame. I was guilty all the time. 24 hours a day. It was a very dark few years.
One day I was online and someone shared something about Asexuality awareness day. I immediately latched onto it. What is asexuality? I spent the whole day and most of the next day doing research on the topic. I was amazed at how much I identified with the information. I couldn’t believe there were other people in the world like me! I was delighted with the information. I wasn’t broken. I was whole. I was made this way. The mental freedom I experienced was indescribable.
Identifying as asexual has changed everything for me. I have let go of the shame and guilt I had. I have accepted myself. I don’t want sex and that’s ok!
If you ever meet someone who identifies as asexual, and they share that information with you, let me give you the same advice I would give someone who meets anyone on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Please don’t ask them about their sex life. Since I’m writing this article, I will tell you that my husband and I work it out because we love each other. We spend time talking through how we feel. We share when our needs aren’t being met. We compromise. And we find joy in the journey.
I am not “out” as asexual. There are many reasons for this. Asexuality education is seriously lacking, even among strong supporters of the LGBT+ community. And, being an Adventist pastor’s wife, I am not usually surrounded by people who are strong supporters of the LGBT+ community. Maybe one day I will be ready to take on the responsibility of educating people about what asexuality is, what it means, and how to treat people with respect regarding their sexuality, but not now. I’m not ready to take that on. I’ve got kids to raise and work to do and a church to help run. Secondly, because I’m already married it’s not really necessary for me to be open about my sexuality with anyone but my husband. I don’t need to inform potential dating partners. I can be fully myself in the context of my marriage and I don’t feel stifled in my self-expression outside of that context. I don’t need to discuss my sex life with anyone at my church. It would make for uncomfortable, invasive, and unnecessary conversations. I have shared with some of my family and friends. I don’t exactly want to hide. I just don’t feel the need to share it from the pulpit.
Another concern is the same concern that many in the LGBT+ community face. I’m afraid that as soon as my asexuality was public my character would become immediately one-dimensional. No longer would I be the interesting person who has a cat and leads the song service and drops her kid off at school and watches Captain Jean-Luc Picard save the galaxy from certain destruction in her free time. Nope. I would be that asexual woman. A person defined by only one aspect of myself. And a very personal and private aspect of myself. I don’t want my church members to think of my sex life every time they think of me. As I write these things it strikes me how privileged I am to be able to keep my asexuality a secret. So many are unable to remain in the closet for their own sanity. And they are forced to do the hard things that I am able to avoid.
As a culture asexuality needs to be acknowledged. I am certain there are people out there like I am who feel like there is something wrong with them. Representation matters. I am writing this article hoping that it will help get the word out there. I would love to turn on the TV sometime and see a complicated, nuanced character work through his or her asexuality. I would love to see two asexual characters forge a romantic relationship, or one asexual and one sexual person have enough love and respect for one another that they figure out a way to make it work for both of them, as my husband and I have.
Our church is challenged by the idea of gay and lesbian relationships. It is challenged by transgender people expressing their true gender. It is challenged by bisexuality. Is it challenged by asexuality? Maybe not in the same way. After all, according to traditionalists, I’m technically not committing any sins by not having sex at all. But simply by identifying myself as asexual challenges the church. Here are a few questions that people have asked me (some of them more politely. I have condensed the questions for clarity) when I share my asexuality.
“Is that really a thing?”
“Are you sure you’re not just still recovering from that slump after the baby was born?”
“Maybe you just have a low sex drive. That’s not really a sexual identity.”
“You’ve really gotten into this whole LGBT+ thing a lot lately. Are you sure you’re not just trying too hard to identify with them?”
“Have you talked with your husband about how to satisfy you?”
“You know, women are just like that.”
Depending on my mood, and who I’m talking to I either laugh these comments off or try to patiently explain, again. But sometimes when I get home I can feel the insult; the implication again that I’m broken; that I’m exaggerating or attention grabbing or that I just need to have a “man who knows what he’s doing.” These comments are very deeply insulting to both me and my husband. And women. And men. And LGBT+ people. My marriage is so much more joyful and connected since I discovered my asexuality. I hope that as a culture we can learn how to approach all people with respect and dignity.
I imagine that in my next 30-60 years I will still be discovering new things about myself. I hope so. Life would be awfully boring without new information to discover and process.
I hope that one day when I’ve had a little more time to let this relatively recent discovery settle for me, I can be more open about it. Maybe I won’t feel so uncomfortable telling people even if I know they will be challenged by the inevitable discussion that follows. In the meantime, I’ll keep learning about gender and sexuality and enjoying watching James T. Kirk beat up strange creatures on alien planets.
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