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Do I need to come out as asexual?

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Unchained asks:

I first learned asexuality existed around a year ago. I decided to research it simply because it was something I had never heard about and wanted to be informed.

I came across AVEN and several blogs with people telling about their own experiences with asexuality and debunking myths. After some time of reading about it and kind of forgot about the matter, kept the information I had researched as something to remember when talking to people.

Several months later, the Sunday newspaper featured an article about asexuality. Like before, I didn't think much beyond that it was good asexuality was finally seeming to get some media to talk about it.

Molias replies:

Unchained's question continued:

Around the beginning of this year, I was walking to the bus stop after college and when I was waiting for the traffic lights to give me pass for some odd reason I remembered the article about asexuality I had read on the newspaper's magazine... and then I remembered all the other things I had read before about it on the internet. And I kind of suddenly concluded I was asexual. When I arrived home I spent hours searching about asexuality on the net again. On one hand, I was like "I'm asexual, cool, who cares?" on the other hand, up to that moment I had always assumed I was heterosexual and would now and then worry that I had gone through all my teenage years without not even a boyfriend or even the smallest thought about it.

I mean, when I was in High School, sometimes the other girls in my class would ask me about me and my lack of interest in boys. I would always answer I simply didn't have time for that. As I finished High School and began college, I realised that excuse didn't make sense, so when people asked me I would simply say "It just hasn't happened yet.". But I didn't feel sincere saying that. I have simply never thought about men as potential sexual partners. I don't see men and evaluate if I find them "hot". I even once wondered if maybe I was lesbian? And concluded that no because I didn't find women attractive in that sense, either.

So, after re-reading everything I had read in the past about asexuality and looking up more information, I felt the more I read the more I was certain I was asexual. I'm not uncomfortable with the idea of being asexual. I don't know how to act about it. The people I move around (family, friends, classmates) have never heard the word. I found forums for asexual people to meet each other and talk about it and support each other. And I have been about to create account on them just to back off because: what would I do at one? I don't really feel I have something to share.

I see asexuality awareness campaigns aimed to educate people on it. So they don't go around thinking asexuals are sick or abnormal. I understand that. I understand it's important to know asexuality exists because I had found myself worried over my lack of sexual attraction and wondered if there was something wrong with me.

So, what makes me feel out of place is that I kind of don't feel the need to "come out" as asexual. I would rather let people keep assuming I'm heterosexual and shield from any questions regarding my lack of boyfriend with the "I'm focused in my studies." or "It will happen when it happens." excuses.

Is that wrong?

I sometimes worry what will I do if I meet someone I would actually like to be with, as in, a romantic relationship. I understand asexuals are a minority and, as far as I have been able to ponder, none in the circles I move have ever heard of it as a valid sexual orientation.

The choice of if and when to come out is so personal that there's really no universal measure of right or wrong, just whether or not it's right for you specifically to do so in a particular situation. Only you can make that decision, so it isn’t wrong if you decide not to come out. You certainly don't have to come out to anyone unless it's something you want to do; ideally it's something people do because they want to, and they feel like that process will benefit them in some way. In addition, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to coming out, and it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing situation. So when thinking about if or how to come out, those are some good thoughts to keep in mind.

It sounds like it's been really helpful for you to learn about asexuality as a concept and know that there are other people who are asexual, and that's great! It also seems like this is an identity that's important to you personally, in that it's helping you understand yourself better, but it might not be an important component of your public identity. If that's enough for you right now, it's all right to have that knowledge for yourself but not come out to people; you don't owe anyone an explanation of your sexuality.

That having been said, though, coming out can be really helpful; it allows people to be more open and honest about their lives and interests, it can keep others from making incorrect assumptions about them that might be uncomfortable or awkward to deal with, and it can help people feel closer to friends and family, knowing that they've shared a core component of their identity with someone else. It isn't necessary at all, but it could be that you do find it helpful. Most of the people in your social group may not be aware of asexuality as a "valid sexual orientation," as you say, but that might be due to ignorance, not any sort of anti-asexual sentiment. It can be both rewarding and frustrating (sometimes at the same time!) to be the first person of a certain identity that's open about it in a social group, and playing the role of educator isn't something I think anyone has to do, but if you feel up to it, talking with your friends about asexuality might be beneficial in the long run. It is an identity that's becoming more visible - as you said, you started connection that word with yourself when you saw more mentions of it in a newspaper and online - and as with many other identities, the more visibility asexuality has, the more "normal" and valid it can seem. So, if you do choose to be open about it, it could be that you find your friends are just fine with it; they may appreciate having a better understanding of asexuality and asexual identities, and you could build closer connections with them by talking about it.

If you do find it easier to respond to questions with "I'm focusing on [work, school, hobbies]" or similar responses, though, that's entirely fine! You mention feeling like those responses aren't sincere, but even if they aren't the deepest explanation of why you're not dating, they aren't entirely inaccurate, either. You aren't ever required to explain why you aren't in or looking for a relationship, and it's not wrong to answer with a deflection if you'd rather not go into detail. If you don't want to get into defining asexuality for folks who don't know the term, you could tell them something like “Right now I’m not interested in sexual/romantic relationships,” “sex and relationships aren’t a priority in my life,” or something else that gets the idea across without relying on that specific term.

If, after you’ve said similar things to friends or family, they keep trying to convince you to date or start trying to set you up with people, you may want to say something like "It sounds like you think I'd be happier with a partner, but I'm just not interested in dating right now and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop trying to convince me otherwise." It would be extremely rude for anyone to ignore a request like that.

Sometimes when people think about disclosure, they imagine only two states: being closeted and being 100% out to everyone, but it's common to be somewhere in the middle. Many people who want to disclose the truth of their sexual orientation or gender identity will choose to come out to a few close friends or family members first, before possibly expanding that to acquaintances, schoolmates, co-workers, and community members, or by being visibly active in a way that might do the outing for them. There's a huge difference, though, in deliberately telling everyone you know that you're asexual and mentioning it to a couple of people you're close to, as it comes up in conversation. Even if you don’t want to come out en masse to everyone in your life, you may find it helpful to do so to a few close friends.

It's also the case that a decision to not come out to anyone, or more than a few people, at this point doesn't mean you can't revise this later. Maybe you want to tell a close friend or two that you're asexual right now, and in a few years it becomes something you'd rather be more open about, or that you want to share with more people in your life. Maybe you will become more interested in dating and feel like it makes sense to be openly asexual as you're navigating dating and relationships. It may also be the case that it's never a part of your identity that you feel a strong need to share with folks, and that is ok too. But the decision not to come out doesn't have to be final; if you change your mind in the future, there's nothing wrong with that. Coming out and later wishing you hadn't is a little tougher, for sure.

To address your final point, you can be asexual and still have a romantic relationship, either with another asexual person or with someone who might enjoy sex but be all right with having romantic relationships without a sexual component. Some asexuals do enjoy non-sexual romantic relationships, possibly with less sexually-charged physical contact like cuddling or kissing. If a potential partner isn't very aware of or knowledgeable about asexuality, that is likely a situation where coming out to them and talking about what you'd like from an asexual romance would be a good idea. This may be where online asexual communities could be a big help; there are plenty of people who could share their experiences dating as an asexual person with you.

And while you expressed hesitation to become active in asexual groups online, and worry that you don't have anything to say, you certainly had some thoughts to share with us here! I do think that giving those communities a try, even if you don't speak up at first, may turn out to be a positive experience. I'd encourage you to at least take another look. Sometimes just knowing that other folks with an identity in common exist, and listening to how they navigate that in their daily lives, can be a huge comfort.

For any given identity, some folks really feel it as a core part of themselves and want to be visible members of that community, and others are happy having a label for their own self-understanding with no further involvement. And both are totally fine; it just depends on what you’re comfortable with. So, no matter how you feel about talking to friends and family about your asexuality, I think it’s fine, as long as you’re doing what feels right to you.

Here are a few links you may find helpful:
The Rainbow Connection: Orientation for Everyone
I'm asexual, but my partner wants to have sex; should I just compromise and do it?
Tips for Coming Out as Asexual
AVEN on Asexual Relationships
Sexuality: WTF is it, anyway?

written 23 Jun 2014 . updated 14 Jul 2014

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