I wrote the bulk of this piece back in Connecticut in 2013, when i still believed in the concept of mental illness yadda yadda. i am adding this preface in Vermont, from a place of somewhat greater stability and even more firmness.
Asexuality is not a common orientation but it is not unknown or in any fashion abnormal. As i note below, a good 1% of the human population may be asexual all their lives and many, many more may find themselves “asexual” at some time in their lives. I put the quotations around the word because i believe that those who find themselves suddenly asexual while taking certain psycho-tropic drugs may not quite understand that it is the medications that have induced this change in them, but sometimes the state is an unnatural change from their native orientation and not a natural state of affairs.
if you happen to be asexual, as i am, you surely know that it is not a state of being without discrimination. For one thing, people make assumptions about us that are almost always to our detriment, and they never bother to inquire first who or what we are about. For instance, i am 64, childless, unmarried, and unpartnered…and yet i like to contribute to the well-being of young people, either by teaching them or by assisting them in other ways. If i were married with children, i believe my intentions would not be regarded with suspicion, but as it is, i feel frequently suspected as some sort of sexual predator. An asexual friend of mine evinced similar feelings, saying that he could not invite a friend from work out for a drink without that person clearly fearing that he was being “hit on” when all my friend ever wants is friendship from anyone, male or female!
I dont understand why the A in LGBTQIA stands for “allies” not for “asexual” and why there is still no place for us within it.
Let me state this plainly so there is no misunderstanding: I am tired of people thinking there is something wrong with me just because I do not have a husband or boyfriend/lover or even a girlfriend/lover or a love-interest of any kind. I am not interested in sex and have never been interested in sex for whatever reason. This does not distress me and it never would have in the past, had others not insisted that it ought to. I have finally come to the conclusion that being asexual — definition: having no interest in a sexual relationship with another person — is okay.
I am not unhappy. I get a lot done and I am likely more satisfied by my life as an asexual than someone who is sexual and without a partner. I am never lonely. And I have tons of friends. (At least 16 friends — all of whom I adore — came to my 60th birthday party!)
It has taken me, via a tortuous up and down path, a long time to come to this position. And there may well be those who shake this foundation yet, as other people’s opinions, alas, still manage to have a strong effect on me. I have never told openly the story I am now going to relate, but I think it is time. It should be an eye-opener and a warning to those who believe they have the right, even the duty to “help” a young person discover “her true identity…”
As some of you know, a very long time ago, I was a student in a medical school in Connecticut. The two years I attended med school were extraordinarily difficult ones for me and I admit now that even as I matriculated, I “knew” at an almost conscious level that I would never get through. I didn’t honestly want to be a physician. Not really. Oh, yeah, I thought I could be a good psychiatrist. I knew that I understood people and mental illness enough to empathize and help others. But the notion that I could successfully get through four years of med school and four years of residency in order to achieve that goal was something I also knew would be impossible, even as I nominally attempted to undertake it. I had no choice. It was what you did in my family. And there was no question in my mind that I could work at a “regular 8-hour a day job.” I simply didn’t have the stamina either interpersonally or physically. I didn’t know why, I just didn’t. (I also didn’t understand that I had narcolepsy, so I construed my constant drowsiness as “boredom” for everything.)
So there I was in med school, without the ability to make friends or any interest in relationships, especially having just broken up with Bruce, the one boyfriend I had had and with whom I had sex (because he pushed it). I hated it…which was why I broke it off. I know I was noticed. I felt noticed. Possibly because I made little effort to be friendly, possibly because my narcolepsy made me noticeable. I don’t know. It is not that I was or am a striking person at 5′ 3″ and 105 lbs…hardly! Perhaps it was my mere aloneness that struck people. I dunno.
Things were hard to start with, but then the voices started up telling me to hurt myself and I acted on their commands, frequently. I had horrific nightmares nightly. And I could not stay awake in class or to study no matter what I did. People had all sorts of advice and jokes for me but no understanding. They gave me No-Doz and Vivarin for my birthday, which precipitated a caffeine-toxic all-night-up of horror. They took photos of “Rip van Winkle” sleeping on the med school lobby couch and published it in our newsletter. No one knew what was really going on, at home, at night, in my bedroom when the voices took over.
I had a run-in with the student health doctor, Dr E, to whom I had gone about possible Reynaux (sp?) Syndrome. When she saw certain scars on my body she became concerned and spoke with the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. Dr S, who was a cold man who seemed to dislike me from the start, was angry at our next appointment for “parading” my wounds and warned me against ever doing so again.
I went back to Dr E and told her what Dr S had said. She seemed perturbed and gave me the name of a therapist that she said she often referred “troubled students” to. I might consider seeing Tamara instead of Dr S. The other students liked her a lot, Dr E said. What were their problems? I asked. Dr E shook her head and responded, Not so very different from yours.
I sit nervously in the waiting room, hoping that Tamara will be so late she won’t have time to see me today after all. I feel sick to my stomach and wonder why I’ve come. Five minutes late, ten minutes late. I am just about to leave when a very pregnant woman opens the door to the office and welcomes me in. I do not look at her face but whisk myself inside, trying not to guess how many more weeks she has.
Before she asks me anything, Tamara says, “Now, I see girls who like girls and boys who like boys. You’re okay with that?”
What is she talking about? I don’t understand. Girls who like girls? I like girls, I like boys. Why shouldn’t I be okay with it? So I say, yes. And assume that even so, she sees people whose issues are very different…
I didn’t ask her. I simply assumed that she had other interests. And went on from there. But it was critical, because I did not get that she was conducting therapy as if I had agreed that I was a lesbian, and yet I had made no such admission. I did not even understand what she was getting at. Why was she so coy? Why didn’t she just come out and ask me whether or not I was gay and then tell me that she only treated lesbians and gays with issues around their sexuality?
As it turned out, she had no idea that I was not in fact assenting to her coy proposition that I “liked girls.” On the contrary, if she had asked me point blank, I would likely have said, “Me? No way. I am not even interested in boys. I couldn’t care less about sex. I like, but don’t love, boys and girls…so to speak.” But the operant word, clearly, was not “like” at all, but love, as in “making love.”
Actually, in point of fact, I would not have been able to respond at all, if I remember my former self accurately. I was nearly mute much of the time, esp in therapy, and when I did speak it was often very cryptically and with difficulty making myself clear. This may account for the misunderstanding that so horrified me in what follows.
It was a crazy-making psychotherapy for about 6 months. I had no idea what notion she was operating under, because I didn’t know what kind of therapy she “did.” Likewise, if she knew the least thing about me, it was completely mis-colored by her mis-understanding of me as a lesbian. So when one afternoon she “told” me that she empathized with me, because I had had a sexual relationship with my previous psychiatrist…I hit the roof.
“WHAT? What the F— are you talking about?!” I nearly leapt out of my chair.
“It’s okay Pam, I understand,” she soothed me.
“It is NOT okay! I never said anything of the sort! This is YOUR filthy mind! I’m out of here. Go to hell!” And with that I got up and walked out. I realized then that she was nuts. Somehow she had gotten the entirely wrong idea, but I didn’t understand how. It made no sense to me. Where on earth had she fashioned that notion? I certainly had never said any such thing…
Then her statement “I treat girls who like girls…” came back to me. And I understood more. Dr E surely knew Tamara’ orientation, her clinical expertise, so Dr E must have believed that I needed to talk about conflicts about my “homosexuality,” about coming to terms with being a lesbian, unbeknownst to me. So she had set it up that I see Tamara, believing that she knew me better than I knew myself. But what right had she to do that? And how would she know whether or not I was a lesbian? Just because I was a conspicuous loner? How dare she? She knew nothing about me! What she had done was a violation of me as bad as any man who wanted to have sex just to prove he was Mr Right!
I spent a lot of time after that utterly paranoid that I might be gay, feeling that I must be gay, certain that I was gay…I even came to the point that I accepted it eagerly. But it was never true. It was just another identity forced on me by others who would not let me be. Who would not accept that I simply have never had interest in sex or sexuality beyond a pervasive non-sexuality. My libido, my psychic energy, is invested in other things, in art, in science and in life, but not in erotic interests. And you know what? Being non-sexual or asexual doesn’t make me an amoeba or less than human.
At least 1% of humanity is asexual, has always been asexual, permanently. That’s a LOT of people. We may not be the norm, but there are enough of us out there to rate your acknowledgement and the respect you would pay to any other human being. That’s all we ask, that’s all I ask. And for you not to try to change me just because you do not like it or understand my way of being. Thank you.
12 thoughts on “I’m Asexual, and LGBTQIA should have a letter for me…”
When is your birthday?! (If you can, please come to Bratt and spend it with me and meet Mott as I call him and don’t be alone ! Or the next big holiday that is coming up if you prefer !) I would love that and you would have plenty of privacy in your own room upstairs !!
Yes it has indeed been a thrill to meet someone who is not interested in my body but in just me (or not somehow primarily already attached elsewhere ) — I was always meeting either married men who wanted to have a fling (or could not talk to me for some weird opposite reason!) or married women who were nice but always put me second — or single women who did the same thing to me whenever a “real relationship” came along in their lives .,.
So I was never considered a “real relationship”! All because of a lack of sexual involvement!!! That is totally strange considering that when my best friend, Joe C , got ALS I was the only friend who stuck it out with him to the bloody end — and we had never been sexually involved ! Yet I was the only friend to be with him at his death bed and to know what he wanted and to understand his wishes …, but our involvement was somehow not a “real relationship”??!!!?! How fucking screwed up is that?! Yeah!
Pam, I wish I had a friend like that! I don’t care if he/she asexual or what “sexual” they are. Just leave the darned “sex” out of it and can’t we be friends? Not because I’m asexual or not, but because I want to concentrate on my career right now and leave the complications and games, including all romance out of my life. I find it next to impossible to find anyone who will even sit down with me for a cup of coffee and have a stimulating intellectual conversation. It’s been years! Nada! I am trying not to feel pissed off about it all. And I would do anything not to spend a birthday alone. Every year, all holidays, even my birthday. I’m dreading my 60th just like I dread every lonely Thanksgiving and the subsequent Facebook showing-off.
also – yeah, people don’t wanna hear it, I know, my sister didn’t either, but I think she’ll be OK. She lived her first half of life straight, and is now living gay, I think she wanted to have been true to herself during both times, and this idea hurts that plan, but, truth is hard to ignore . . .
wow, Pam, amazing stuff, and I’m so glad you found relief from the mindless pressure of the breeders (and the pseudo-breeders, by my earlier comment, LOL).
Julie, to carry on, and I may reply to more than one comment again.
First this –
” . . . the entire bisexual community, which has been around a long time, would highly disagree, but I’m not here to argue against your logic.”
Sorry, LOL at the first bit. I’m sure Robert Trivers and all those scientists can just toss their brain scanners in the trash then! It was a recent Trivers, available at his website, talks in Croatia video that told the story. I’m not tryna pass any laws about it, just saying, gay is a demonstrably hardwired thing, bi is a social choice to a much greater degree. Somebody might like pro wrestling, doesn’t mean there’s a gene for it and if there was it still wouldn’t be illegal. That’s the thing about science, same thing we tell the Christians: it’s true whether you believe it or not. They can “disagree” all they like, all things are not theoretical, all things aren’t open to our preferences.
Not really my logic, the citation is above, Trivers. Want the link? Here’s his page. I think it’s Lecture #2 near the bottom.
for your second reply, yes absolutely, rights are rights. Unfortunately, things are such in the big bad world that the science would seem to help gays, by placing them solidly in Nature if not in God’s plan. I’m afraid the same science hurting bi’s self image is less important, something under the ten steps forward, one step back category. Again, though, this “born gay” debate is a short term strategy, we really need to get to choice, to help everyone. If we get past what’s “natural” to choice, that’s the only attitude will help the asexuals, maybe. Possibly under the present regime, bis can get screwed from both camps in the bad way too, right? Traitors to the gay struggle and queers to the straights? We need to get to choice for everyone, but so far science has only just provided firm support for gay genes, after millennia of none of that. That science may save folks, I’d hate to think the LGBT community rejects it the same as the Christians would.
Even without choice being on the table, science that shows gay is hardwired should change the ostracization gays and bis suffer by changing the view from pressure to “conform to nature” to absolute torture, forcing a person to live against this newly proven nature 1/10th of us have. That should change the law’s mind, eventually.
(I think I blew something earlier: no-one lights up the sex smell centre for both genders’ junk, so the point was, that experiment says there are no “truly bi” or not nearly as many as those living that way. I said something dumb before about lighting up both times, point of Trivers’ story was, doesn’t happen.)
Hi both Jeff and Julie,
Just gor back from my book launch and art show opening, so i missed all these interchanges as they were happening. Wow! Where to start. First of all, the Tamara therapist thing,and the Dr E thing happened back in the 70s so i imagine both people are no longer practicing or very close to retirement by now, if not well past it. That does not make their behavior excuseable, it just makes it very old history that i am only now putting in its proper place, i.e. not just the past but a past that wronged me badly.
That said, i will also say that it never helped that i was not raised by parents who taught me to either stand up for myself or think for mysekf or have any sense that i had a self worth knowing. For decades, literally several decades, i “knew” that everyone who said so, knew much more about me than i could ever know myself, so when it was implied that i was a lesbian, i took that to be the gods honest truth, and absorbed it and even tried to live as if it were so….except that it was not and i could not fool other lesbians the way i tried to pull the wool over my own eyes! I suspect there is not much worse sexually (unless you are a boor or a rapist) than trying to make love to someone who is not only unresponsive but who could not care less and shows it! Omg…but that was how i was in bed with both men and women, until finally it dawned on either me or them that it was simply not my thing. Usually the men did “it” anyway, but women did not…because the women were not into non-mutual sex and such…and they did not enjoy having sex with someone who clearly was just a “sack of potatoes”…and enduring it rather than enjoying it.
Now my best friend in Vermont is also asexual and we have the greatest conversaations and can talk about anything, because we are not threatened by each other, since sex is not going to become an issue for us, thank the lord! My god, this is the best thing i could have wished for: a man who does not care about sex at all, who does not want sex, who is not interested in sex, and yet who likes me for who i am! Because of this, it does not matter what i look like or weigh, or wear or wtf, nothing that matters to most men matters to him because he is not going to care about my being ATTRACTIVE to him nor him to me, ditto! So we can just be real people without all that garbage! What an effing relief…i never did care about being attractive to men, but culturally, socially, there was always the message that you had to be or look attractive to men….it was hard to escape! Or to avoid or contravene…now i can do whatever i want and dress for me. (And not if i dont want to.)
Jeff, I don’t think it matters, and when we humans go too far into the nature/nurture thing we get ourselves into too much trouble (like splicing genes, tearing down forests to put in a pipeline, and of course, electroshock). If, as you say, it’s a right, then does it matter if it’s nature or environment? Rights are rights. AND also, what about choice? What about the everyday choices we make, say, to marry into another faith, class, or another ethnicity? Or as I am, simply making the decision that I like being single and unpartnered. My choice. Even a hundred years ago, people would be looking at me weird and calling me a spinster. And they even banished people who chose to date the wrong “type” of person. Yet a right is a right.
We can only hope these self-evident rights are duplicated within the law. Right to be who you are, right to love whomever you want, or not, and right to be this way without even having to argue nor defend yourself.
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juliemadblogger, sorry, don’t see a ‘reply’ button. Don’t get me wrong. I hate the whole “born gay or not” conversation. I think we should all be allowed to do whatever we like sexually, again, only barring harm to the non-consenting (and most of the consenting too). I have no qualms about people going with their sexuality, honestly. And be bi, by all means, God knows I fit along that spectrum somewhere myself. I’m just saying, so far, the biologists have not identified it as a hardwired thing. So now, I think that many bis are probably adventurous straight people, or adventurous gay people, and I make no moral judgment about it. To be clear, I think if the gays have to prove they’re born that way, we’ve all lost the right to choose and that’s bullshit, proves the religious right have set that argument up and that choice can never win (and it should win).
Jeff I can tell you the entire bisexual community, which has been around a long time, would highly disagree, but I’m not here to argue against your logic. Hardly anyone engages in sex with a flower. You might have some luck with pumpkin pie, though it could end up in your face…..
you know, I worried I was closeted my entire life, I even thought my great preference for cunnilingus over intercourse was a sign I was really gay. I know I could go that way, I mean sexually, if not by lifestyle – but I learned something about it. It’s biology stuff, emotions are smells, and your emotion processor in your brain is the smell processor, the nose-brain. Sex smells, however, are processed in a different part of the brain, and they can watch that. Turns out, “bi” is a social phenomenon, most folks are either straight or gay. And it turns out it’s hard-wired, that your sex smell centre lights up when a man smells balls if he’s gay, and when he smells pussy (is this the place to use Latin and stuff? No offense intended) if he’s not, and a gay woman lights up at the smell of women and not at the smell of men, it’s clear as day. I imagine the truly asexual don’t light up with either, or equally for both – or perhaps some folks light up normally but have an abnormal response somewhere between that part of the brain and the rest of the circuit. Certainly life can conspire to make sexually driven people lonely and sexless, regardless of their orientation. Just not doing it doesn’t prove you’re not made for it, does it? There are probably closeted, married asexuals too, I guess, huh?
I’m raving, I’m sorry. I’m probably all wrong, I don’t mean to be cis-splaining shit . . ..
Pam, It’s a great truth, and it’s a personally liberating idea, and I take it seriously. This, I mean: “I wrote the bulk of this piece back in Connecticut in 2013, when i still believed in the concept of mental illness yadda yadda.” But is it OK if it’s hilarious too? I’m straddling that very point of contention myself right now, and I’m sort of at the Groucho stage. “I’m crazy? Who are you to tell me?” kinda thing.
As for the asexual thing, it’s depressing and sad, that all 46 genders or whatever still have a sexuality VS no sexuality bigotry. It’s just so basic, biological and unthinking. “You don’t fuck? What ARE you?” On the positive side of the ledger, it does put all 46 genders into the “breeder” category, they all have and succumb to the drive, un-mitigated, just a different style or something – but again, if you lack the entire human breeding drive at all, you’re not one of us? Gives the lie to all the noble aspirations we have, when we are categorized that way and not by anything we think, say, or do. Shows that the few of us who are actually concerned with lofty human things are few and far between – and rare and precious, Bodhisattvas like you.
This is a brilliant example of therapy abuse! I have heard so many similar stories that I keep wondering what percentage of therapists are like this. A professional therapist or professional patient would say, “Oh, very few indeed!”
Hardly! It doesn’t take much to cross the line. When I was over 50 I was accused of both regular vomiting and overexercising. “Because all anorexics do that, and because all of you are sneaky liars.” I can’t believe this woman is still in business.