Although I am 41 years old, I am very new to the concept of asexuality. I have only very recently discovered, I am actually ‘Triple A’ – agender, aromantic and asexual. As I am so new to the world of LGBTQIA+, I am not yet fully versed on the best language to use to describe my experiences; and please know that everything that I have written here is a description of my own experience, from my own perspective. I absolutely believe that each person’s own experience and perspective is valid, and that any labels which that person feels that they wish to attach to their own identity or orientation are valid; as is the decision not to attach any labels.
Having grown up in country Australia through the 1980s and 1990s, I wasn’t exposed to the existence of or even the idea of any sexual orientation or gender identity other than heterosexual and cisgender. Even during sex education at high-school it wasn’t mentioned. My first real exposure to the concept was in the late 90s, by which time I was already verging on adulthood, when I first saw the move ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’. Of course, I didn’t relate directly to the characters in the movie, and I know now that it really presented a very stereotypical and skewed idea of what it often is to be homosexual and/or transgender. There was something about it that resonated with me though – and I think that was the ever-present feeling of being a square peg trying to fit into some sort of ‘societal’ round hole; as well as the judgement and rejection that the main characters experienced simply as a consequence of outwardly expressing who they were.
I learned throughout my teen years that sex and sexual attraction are one of society’s highest priorities. I never understood why that was, but clearly got the message that, once I had sex, I’d ‘get it’, because it would be the most amazing experience, and I really believed (naively) that having a relationship that was both romantic and sexual would somehow ‘fix’ whatever was wrong with me and make me ‘normal’. Which, clearly, is why I threw myself heart and soul into a relationship with the first man who showed any romantic interest me whatsoever, at the tender age of seventeen. He was abusive toward me right from the start.
In hindsight it seems to me to be ridiculously insane, but I spent more than twenty years trying to make that relationship ‘work’. I even married him, and we had three children together (who are now three truly awesome teenagers, and I do not and would not regret having them – not even for a second). Sex for me was never amazing or even particularly enjoyable, and I always struggled to understand what the romantic side of the relationship was ‘supposed’ to be like; I never really knew what was expected from me or what my role was. I was frequently punished by my (now) ex-husband and, for a long time, I truly believed that there was something fundamentally ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about me, something deep within me that was ‘shameful’ that absolutely deserved this treatment; and that if I could just somehow ‘fix’ it, all of our relationship problems would just somehow vanish in a puff of smoke.
The fact that I was unable to do that no matter how hard I tried took a further toll on my mental and emotional health, to the point where I eventually became so exhausted and so low on self-esteem that I was just barely functional in day-to-day life. It took three years of therapy with an excellent trauma therapist (whilst still in the relationship) to mentally and emotionally strengthen myself to a place where I felt that I could leave and in March 2020, around the time that the first Coronavirus lock down began in my state, and after the abuse had worsened to the point where my life was now clearly in danger, I managed to pack myself and my children up and leave.
It is now March 2021 and with a restraining order in place, I have been able over the past 12 months, with the help of the same therapist, make significant progress on the path to healing. I stumbled across the term ‘asexuality’ some months ago whilst reading online, read a description of how asexuality is often defined, and finally finally finally, after more than thirty years, I began to understand. Reading further and discovering the existence of aromanticism and the existence of ‘agender’ as a gender identity was just… wow. Lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment! One of the biggest parts of that, of course, has been accepting myself for who I really am; acknowledging to myself and to everyone else that not only is there not anything fundamentally ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about me, but that there never was. Read that again: there NEVER WAS. And that applies to you, too, no matter how you identify, whether you are unsure as to how you identify… or whatever.
I now live as the true ‘me’. I’m still working on everything, and people are fluid, they change, but I am now excited to see where my new life will take me. Last year I started studying law at one of Australia’s most prestigious universities. I’m the only person who arrives for class wearing tie dye t-shirts, or t-shirts with silly pictures and sayings on them. I might be in my forties and I might look and behave in a very different way to the stereotype for my age, which makes me stand out a bit… but I think that’s a good thing. I hope that I am helping, even in my own small way, to pave the way for others in a similar situation. Just please always remember… you are valid; your existence is valid, no matter what form that takes; and your thoughts and feelings are valid. And so are everyone else’s.
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