At thirty years old, I’ve never been kissed – this does not bother me. It’s been this way
since I was about five years old. I’d see couples holding hands and later flirting, laughing, stolen
kisses, and knowing looks. But those things were always reserved for other people. First for the
teens, then grownups, and now just other people. I don’t know who they are, but it’s not for me.
In sixth grade, Damarys Feliz, a seventh-grader, was in love with me. She told me this over
coffee fifteen years later. We decided to meet up after finding each other on Facebook.
“You were a real heartbreaker, you know.” Damarys chuckled, “You know I loved you
so much? But it was like you weren’t even there?” She sipped her Frappuccino through one of
those awful paper straws that are supposed to save the environment.
I laughed along with her. Imagine being in love in seventh grade? It only recently dawned
on me that I’m asexual, and with that realization came the odd task of “coming out.” Can you
come out as asexual? I’m not even sure how that works. “Guys. I have this big secret. I’m
asexual.” It feels like an affront to the thousands or millions of teens who will end up homeless,
adults whose families will reject them who will live in exile of those who they trusted most.
It doesn’t feel dramatic or urgent or even compelling. There’s no movie about an asexual
person sent to a correction camp to sleep with an entire cult in hopes of “correcting” them.
There’s no romantic comedy or wily tale about a girl and her asexual BFF. There’s undoubtedly
no story where people like me get the guy or girl in the end. I suppose I should be grateful for
that – not experiencing exile or melodramatic doom or having my primary goal in life depicted
as finding someone to be with. Still, at least the other groups have something to go by.
In terms of sexually marginalized groups, bisexuals are my closest kin. It’s not that
bisexuals and asexuals have it worse; it’s that they’re erased by the LGBT community and
dismissed socially as a phase by heterosexuals. The straighties think they’re indecisive or
confused, and the gay and lesbian and trans and questioning/queer crowd nod politely while
thinking they’re just gay and hiding it. But even bisexuals are in the LGBT headline. LGBT is
rarely stretched out to include “I,” for intersex and “A,” for asexual.
The truth is that asexuals are just not part of the narrative. So while nobody knew how to
react to my coming out, it’s an experience I can honestly say was shared because there was a
learning curve for me too. Who’s asexual on TV? Explicitly, Todd from Bojack Horseman – a
cartoon about a depressed, alcoholic horse on Netflix. There was Sheldon Cooper, an obnoxious
robot of a human from the sitcom Big Bang Theory (he got laid eventually somehow) and C3-PO,
an actual robot.
Damarys had said that she thought I was gay. That everyone in school did, really. I was
never bullied, but it seemed like a joke I wasn’t in on. Couldn’t blame anyone for thinking that.
Instead of a bookbag, I’d bring an attaché case to school and wear posh clothes from Benneton.
Looking back, my mom may as well have pinned “Kick Me” signs all over me. I was basically
British without the accent.
This sense of “other” continued past school. In my twenties, nights out with the guys
were never complete without graphic tales of who slept with who and how she was hot and how
she did this just right and how she had the softest skin and so on. Those were quiet nights for me.
I’d nod along to the stories, and the guys, raucous as they were, would try their best to make me
feel comfortable by changing the subject when they saw I had nothing to add.
It’s worth noting that just because I don’t have sex, it doesn’t mean I’ve never come close,
intentionally or otherwise. I look back at some experiences and cringe. There was Erica – a friend
in my early twenties who’d invited me out to the movies, coffee, wine tasting – things like that.
One night she invited me to her place at 11pm to watch a movie. This was at the height of the
Netflix and Chill meme. Erica dimmed the lights and turned on a scary Spaniard thriller.
“Here, we can share if you’re feeling cold,” she told me as she threw a plush blanket over
us.The movie was filled with the typical jump scares and gory reveals.
Erica was easily startled and kept grabbing me and shrieking and shouting, and so was I.
Friends. It was a fun moment of solidarity over something dumb. After the movie, we shared a
dessert, and it was really getting late. So I stood there saying goodbye and she leaned in, and I
gave her the biggest bear hug and said I had lots of fun (like a 12-year-old at a slumber party!).
When I’d pulled back, she looked confused, but just like that, I left. Things went kind of sour
after that, and I wasn’t sure why at the time. We don’t meet up anymore.
Another time, I’d gone to a small, underground club in Brooklyn with one of my best friends.
On the floor, I’d met this girl whose name I can’t remember, but she was beautiful and
liked Abba as much as I did. We did this whole disco dance and got in real close, and she kissed
me on the cheek. The dance floor was getting gross and hot. She asked if I wanted to get out of
there and said yes.
Going from a sweaty 90-degree club in December to a crisp 33-degree night isn’t a
smooth transition. I wrapped my scarf twice while my fellow dancer adjusted her coat this
evergreen thing with gold buttons.
“So.” She said, “My place is just a couple blocks from here.”
“Oh, that’s so cool! You must come here a lot, then.” She looked confused at this.
“Yeah, I guess. It’s a pretty cool place. Wanna get going?” she was still pretty bubbly.
“Okay, sure.” I said, “Besides, I think the party is dying down.”
It was late, so I asked where she lived, and I was reassured; it was only a couple of blocks
away. She grabbed my arm as we walked and rest her head on my shoulder. She must’ve been
freezing, so I pulled her in closer.
“Hey, so this is it!” She punched a number in a rusty pad on an ugly brick building. In the
vestibule, she was already taking off her scarf. “The heater is on upstairs, so no need for anything.
Plus, my roommate’s out.”
“Oh, awesome! You’ll have the place to yourself. Love when that happens,” I said.
“Hang on, what?” The dancer’s face dropped. “Don’t you wanna come up for a drink?”
I stood there buzzed and said, “No, I’ve had enough for tonight. I still gotta make it back
to my friend’s place, and we have brunch tomorrow; it’s a whole thing.”
The dancer is quiet for a moment and said, “Are you fucking joking? We just danced all
night, and I thought we were having a good time, what you don’t think I’m pretty?” she was
visibly flustered. I was freezing at that point.
I tried to explain. “No, I mean, you’re beautiful. Just look at you! I just… ”
“You just what?” she demanded, “What is it, you got a girlfriend? Boyfriend? What?”
“Um. No? I just went dancing, and I thought I’d walk you home.”
She was struggling to take off her gloves and angrily shot back “Oh two whole fucking
blocks, right? Hashtag waste her time. Fucking asshole!” She slammed the door, and I just stood
I missed so many clues that night. I don’t do that anymore. Up until that disastrous night,
I’d regarded my asexuality as equivalent to being “nothing.” As if my sexuality didn’t play a role in
the decisions I could make or how those decisions would affect other people. I had to tell
people, and I had to learn how to approach social situations and friendships.
I came out to my older brother last year, and he shrugged and said, “Okay. Cool.” We’re
very close, so I didn’t see this as dismissive in any way. It was just an open and shut thing.
A week later I came out to my sister, who just said “Oh. Is that a thing? Well, I don’t
want to think about my brother in the context of any kind of sex, so you do you.”
Siblings were easy. Coming out to everyone else over the next few months went like this.:
Co-Workers: “So you don’t have sex at ALL? What do you do after a date? Are you
going to get married? But like NO sex? Well, that’s good then as long as you’re happy.”
Best friend (Guy): “That makes sense, but I thought you were gay, honestly.”
Church group: “Can’t you go to hell for that? Actually, probably not.”
This had all gone easier than expected – although I really didn’t know what to expect. It
felt and often still feels like a “nothing” situation. Mom was the last one on my list, and by that
point, I’d sailed through everyone else, but I felt uneasy. Parental expectations are always hard to
nail down. As far as I know, dad’s still at that Starbucks processing what I’d told him. He was
shocked that I didn’t share the same enthusiasm for sex that he did. But with my mom? She
wants grandkids, and that’s just not happening. Not from me. So, I told her.
“That’s really interesting. But I don’t think that you’ve met the right girl yet.” She said
over lunch last year.
We went back and forth on this for over an hour. The conversation became a discussion
of kids and a family and a life well spent. The main takeaway was that she wasn’t getting
grandkids, but she otherwise understood.
“We didn’t have a word for it when I was younger.” she admitted, “I don’t go ‘there’
either. I mean, I had you kids and some fun, but it was never my thing either. Sex, I mean. I
understand, and I still love you. Just don’t lead anyone on.” And that was the end of it. Too late
to not lead anyone on, though.
When I think of all the movies and books and TV shows I’ve consumed over the years, I remove
the sex, and everything gets shorter. A lot of plots go missing, and a lot of beloved characters
cease to exist. Many characters are built on how they sleep around. Who is Roz from Frasier or
Barney from How I Met Your Mother without sex? It’s easy for asexuality to feel like nothing,
and if I’m left alone to mull it over long enough, that sense of “nothing” scares me.
But then I remember – it’s my life and my calendar is open. When I need to book a flight,
I scroll down to “1”. Dinner for two means lunch for tomorrow, and a California King bed means
more room for me to move. I have all my life to figure out how to live this way, and I won’t have
to match schedules with someone to decide when. That’s definitely something.