I’d expected coming out to be simple. Not easy, by any stretch, but not complicated.
And I’d expected it to be cathartic, at least to some degree. I thought it would be a weight off my shoulders to share the revelation I’d had after years of soul searching.
But with an identity under the ace umbrella--biromantic greysexual to be exact—that’s not what was in store for me.
I was 34 years old and scrolling tumblr one evening when I discovered the words that changed my life. Like finding that last puzzle piece hiding under the coffee table, I’d finally found the labels that filled in the whole picture of who I was.
Biromantic: someone who is romantically attracted to two or more genders.
Greysexual (also known as greyasexual): someone who experiences very limited sexual attraction.
It was an incredible relief knowing that I wasn’t broken, and that I wasn’t alone. There were so many people like me that there were even words for it!
I sat with these words for a while, feeling the rightness of them. I knew I didn’t have to come out, but eventually, I decided I wanted to.
I started by telling my closest friends. I’d already surrounded myself with open-minded, respectful people, so I was lucky not to fear negative repercussions like so many people who have come out before me.
But it still didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.
Once I started talking, I realised there were a lot of different concepts that needed to be explained to someone who wasn’t already in the know (which is most people).
I provided a definition of asexuality so that I could then explain how greysexuality sits under the asexual umbrella. Then I described the Split Attraction Model (the idea that your romantic orientation and your sexual orientation can be different from each other) and gave the definition for biromantic.
After all this labour, the most common reaction I received was a blank stare.
I’m not saying I don’t understand why. I get how it could be daunting to be in their position. And our society doesn’t have a standard script for how to respond to this sort of thing.
Over time I developed my elevator pitch, trimming my explanations down until they were as clear and concise as possible. But things didn’t get much better.
When I came out to my psychologist, she informed me that I actually had female sexual dysfunction, and that she would be treating me as such.
“But maybe you just haven’t found the right person yet!” responded a dear friend who only wanted the best for me. They had no idea how invalidating those words would feel.
Even other members of the queer community struggled with the concept. Queer folk in queer spaces seemed to forget what I’d just told them, and speak to me and about me like I was straight.
I didn’t feel any of the catharsis I’d hoped for. I didn’t feel seen or acknowledged or understood for who I truly was. It’s no one else’s job to provide me with these things, of course, but it still hurt.
Fortunately, I’ve found another way to experience the response I was looking for—through writing. I use fanfiction (a medium that uses existing characters in an established setting) to write a variety of positive, affirming coming out stories.
Whether they’re set in the Marvel universe, or Star Trek or some other show, I create stories where the characters I love experience validation and acceptance from those around them. Not only does it bring me some of the satisfaction I was looking for, it also brings joys to other aces (asexual people) around the world.
These days I don’t worry so much about coming out. I tend not to do it unless it’s relevant to the conversation, and often I don’t bother with the whole explanation. I just drop ‘I’m asexual’ into the discussion and continue on like nothing happened. Which, ultimately, is how I want the world to be anyway.
Instead of laying out the pieces of my heart and soul for others to stare at in confusion, I put my energy towards teaching people about any and all queer orientations whenever I have the chance.
This brings me a different sort of satisfaction and contentment. I see the knowledge of the people around me increase, and I watch that knowledge ripple out to their partners, friends and children.
I see the world around me getting better for queer folk, in part because of the conversations I’m having, and that’s immensely cathartic.
I have these conversations so that others won’t have the same coming out experience that I did. So they can come out and be understood by those around them.
So that their coming out experience will be simpler, and more satisfying, than mine.