I was born an only child. I always felt the need to give my parents grandchildren. I planned out my wedding in middle school and picked out names for my children. That was what I was supposed to, right? Those were the things that I was supposed to want, right? As the only child that my parents had, it was my job to continue the bloodline and save us from extinction. I felt as though I had to have children, for the sake of my parents, for the sake of my ancestors, for the sake of my family. I was carrying so much weight on my 13 year-old shoulders.
At the age of 17, I hadn’t dated anyone. People at school and church assumed that meant that I was gay. Here in the Bible Belt, the common opinion is that if a person is gay, they shouldn’t date, let alone marry someone of their same gender. The “honorable” thing to do is live and die alone. Love is a privilege reserved for straight, cisgender people. So, if a person hasn’t even dated by the time they reach their 20’s, folks start making assumptions.
I tried so hard to convince myself that I was straight. I tried to make myself believe that guy who sat next to me in history class was handsome and that his eyes were dreamy and his laugh had made me fall in love with him. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? That’s all I had ever seen, in movies, TV, books. Everywhere I turned was another advertisement for hetero romance! That was all I knew! That was my only option! Maybe that helps explain that panic attack I had when I found the term “Asexual.”
Finding the term Asexual and the community of people of whom it’s made sent me on the wildest emotional roller coaster. I felt like I had fallen overboard a boat and been tossed a life preserver just before a huge wave crashed into me. I felt so relieved to know that I was not the only one. However, not being straight was not an option for me. I HAD to marry a man. I HAD to have at least three children. I HAD to be straight! I’d planned my whole life for the perfect life as a loving wife and mother. I had spent so many class periods daydreaming about my wedding and which song I would glide down the aisle to. I couldn’t just throw all of that out the window! So, I dated men anyways. After three disastrous relationships that all took place within a year, I finally accepted the fact: I was not attracted to men, at all. Nor was I attracted to women, at all. I decided to finally address the elephant in the room, my sexuality.
I had never had an issue with anyone around me being gay, bisexual, pansexual, or whatever the case may be. Why was it so hard to extend that same compassion to myself? Why was I so determined to force myself into this box that was the wrong shape and size for me? I finally decided to start opening the closet. The first step, of course, was acknowledging the fact that there was, indeed a closet to open and emerge from. So, I opened the door, just an inch, and let some light in. I decided to start coming out to the important people in my life.
The first time I came out to someone was… rough. I was a nervous wreck, my heart was pounding so loud, I was sure everyone on the block could hear it. After I was finally able to spit it out, the question I was met with was, “What happened to make you feel this way?” The person across the table seemed to think that I had changed from the factory default setting or something. From my perspective, this person seemed to think I was asking for help to “fix” my sexuality. After we parted ways, I slammed that closet door shut and turned the deadbolt. Life in the closet was awful. The closet is dark, and cramped, and it smells like mothballs. Though I knew that I didn’t owe anyone the knowledge of my sexuality, I felt as if I were holding onto a secret that was threatening to eat me alive. The only thing I could think to do was come out to the people who matter.
“You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” That famous platitude that you’ve probably seen floating around on social media as an “Inspirational quote” as much as I hate to admit it, it’s true. I had to learn how to love myself-sexuality and all before I could expect someone else to love me and accept me-sexuality and all. I had to learn how to turn some of that love and acceptance that I had been unconditionally handing out to other people in on myself. All the pop music I listened to in high school made it sound so easy. In reality, it felt impossible.
I wish I could tell you, step-by-step, how I did it. I wish I could tell you that the answer lies in something simple, like waking up before 9 every morning or spending an hour outside every day. Honestly, I do not know exactly how I went from a depressed, suicidal 16 year-old to a 24 year-old who has learned how to be confident in their sexuality, gender identity and questionable fashion choices. Somehow, I managed to do it. I managed to find that confidence I had been searching for since my playground days.
At the age of 21, I started coming out and sporting a black band on my right hand, a subtle beacon to let other aces know that they aren’t alone in this world. Being a Bible Belt native, I braced myself for the worst. Most folks take issue with people who deviate from the norm (cisgender and heterosexual.) I expected tirades about the sins I was committing. So, when I was met with waves of love and support, I didn’t know what to do! I consider myself fortunate to have the network of love and support that I have. I’ve got a loving partner, supportive family and coworkers. I’ve gotten better at letting people go if the relationship we have is toxic. I’ve gotten better at opening up. I’ve gotten better at loving in general, especially when it comes to loving myself. At the time of writing this article, I’m still growing into myself, but I’m happier and more content than I’ve ever been.
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