by Jaime Wise
Don’t try to fix yourself.
There is nothing wrong with you. There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. You. Say it, write it, sing it, or interpretive-dance it out as many times as it takes to sink in. You aren’t broken, immature, or an object of pity. You’re Asexual, and have just as much right to your identity as anyone else. Own it; because there is nothing wrong with you.
Don’t bargain for companionship.
There’s a pervasive myth in the Ace community that relationships are something we can only have if we sacrifice a piece of ourselves; that Asexuality is a problem that we have to make up for by shelving our comfort or feelings, or even our autonomy. Wrong. On so many levels. We’re a minority, and that does have unique challenges; but that doesn’t mean we’re broken. It doesn’t mean that the way we experience love and closeness is less valid than Allosexual people. It doesn’t even mean that relationships between Aces and Allosexuals are doomed. You get to build your own happiness in this life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; because there is nothing wrong with you.
Don’t accept discrimination as normal
Aces are often infantilized by people who reject Asexuality as an identity, and some even fetishize it, believing it’s “caused” by a lack of sexual experience. Far too many Asexuals internalize the destructive consequences of this dismissal, believing that they’re to blame for their own discrimination. It’s not uncommon for Aces to ask each other advice on how to “get over” their disinterest or aversion to sex or touch, or how to “convince” people who are sexually harassing them because of their orientation how to stop.
It’s not your fault.
None of it.
It doesn’t matter if you trusted someone who ended up hurting you, or didn’t know what to do or say to someone pushing you. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you your preferences are weird or wrong or a sign of immaturity. It’s their fault, their problem, their lack of maturity. Not yours. It’s not your responsibility to “make” people respect you. It isn’t “reasonable” for someone to mistreat you. You aren’t required to be endlessly patient and understanding towards people who ignore your boundaries. You owe the world no apologies or explanations; because there is nothing wrong with you.
Don’t rank Ace-ness.
Asexuality is spectrum, not a diagnosis. It has a wide variety of identities and experiences that fit under the umbrella term, and all of them are just as much “Ace” as the others. Within the Ace community, there are gate-keepers, like any other group. There are people who tend to close ranks and argue over whether specific people are “allowed” to use the Ace label. This isn’t specific to the Ace community, but it’s small size can make it a large problem. It’s exhausting to go to a safe place only to be rejected there as well, so don’t block people because their own experiences don’t identically coincide with yours. And if anyone does this to you, tell them exactly what they can do with their opinion, because there is nothing wrong with you.
Don’t settle for less.
As Asexuals, there are things we don’t usually experience that other sexualities do frequently. There are certain feelings uncommon to us that are common to others. There are interests other have that we typically don’t share. There are some things we usually don’t want, that most people on the planet do.
And that’s normal.
Look at any sexual identity, and you can say the exact same thing. Even the majority identity, heterosexuality, is far from unified in what they want and experience. Human experience is always broader than language can keep up with, not defined by it. And even if that weren’t true, there is no reason that Asexuality, out of every other identity, is somehow less valid an experience as the rest. We may have different experiences, but we don’t experience less. We may feel differently, but we don’t feel less. We may want different things out of life, but we don’t want less. So don’t settle for less, or convince yourself you don’t deserve as much as others; because, guess what? There is nothing wrong with you.
Do ask for what you want.
If you’re used to having your identity trivialized or dismissed, it can be really intimidating to be upfront with people and ask them directly for what you want from them, especially in a close relationship. This is understandable, and it takes a lot of work to overcome. However, the good news is that doing this makes getting what you actually want possible. As hard as it is, the dividends in happiness and self-respect are well worth the effort.
Do gather support.
No one can face the world alone, and there’s no shame in asking for help. If you have trouble believing this, try to think of one person in your life that you love, that hasn’t ever needed anything from you in terms of emotional support or affection. We live in an individualist culture with a history of objectivistic social ethics, and the combination makes it easy to assume we’re in some giant competition with the rest of the world. Friends and family shouldn’t make you feel that way. Find people who will be on your team and love your awesome self for who you are.
Do keep listening to yourself.
It’s very common for Asexuals to make a habit of ignoring what their bodies and minds are telling them, because of a pervasive cultural narrative of what how their experiences are supposed to feel. Don’t blame yourself if it takes time to correct this habit, or if you relapse. Even in the best of circumstances, life is complicated. People are complicated. You are allowed to figure out your life and identity in your own time, at your own pace, and with your own words. If anyone holds this against you, mark them down in your book of reptilian sleeper agents.
Do Find your comfort zone.
Being a part of the Ace community hardly means you’ll get along with everyone in it. I wish I could say that shared experiences mean we all understand each other and immediately empathize in non-infantilizing ways, but I can’t. Asexual are human, just like everyone else, and that necessitates imperfection. You don’t owe friendship or time to people simply because you use the same umbrella term, and you have every right to pick your friends/partners/chosen family on purely selfish grounds. Your comfort is it’s own end, and you don’t need to apologize for prioritizing it.
No one puts it better than The Doctor:
“All the elements in your body were forged many, many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went….Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe…and there will never be another.”
Get out there and celebrate.
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Jaime Wise grew up in the frozen wastes of Northern Michigan before escaping to Grand Rapids and deciding to stay. By day she works and volunteers in the non-profit community; by night she writes fiction & non-fiction instead of sleeping. She knits by noon.