#918: “I’m no longer asexual and feel like I’m letting my community down.”

Hi Captain,

Since my adolescence, I’ve not had sexual desire. I identified as grey-A for a while, and then switched to identifying as asexual when it seemed clear to me that I would not develop any sexual desire. I was happy with this assessment. I have been active in various ace forums since I was a teenager, and have many friends I’ve met that way, both online and in-person friends.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with disorder that affects hormones (not directly related to sex hormones–thyroid, etc.). I took medication for it, to relieve the chance of various serious health issues (increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, some other things). As I did so, I–for lack of a better word–developed a sex drive for the first time. I am no longer, by any reasonable definition of the word, asexual, or even grey-A or demisexual. I have a frequent and persistent attraction to people and desire for sex, and it’s not exclusive to people I know well. There’s no real chance of going back, without risking the health issues that I took the meds for to begin with.

Captain, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my friends. The whole “you’ll grow out of it” or “have you checked to see if something’s wrong with you?” tropes are both so common and so toxic to the asexual community, and so frequently off-base, that I’m hesitant to even acknowledge what happened to me. I feel like I’ve failed my community in a massive way. Part of me wants to just lie (that is, remain celibate and claim to still be asexual), but I know that’s wrong (and the ‘remain celibate’ part would be difficult). Part of me wants to just drift away so they never have to know that I was a fake asexual. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I have no idea how to say, “Guess what! I saw a doctor and went on meds and now I’m a sexual!” without badly hurting people.

Help?

No Longer Ace
(They/them pronouns)

Dear No Longer Ace,

Whatever happens with your friends and how they take the news (if and when and however you give them the news), please know this: Your sexual identity is there to describe you, in all your wonderful complexity. You are not here to “live up to” or perform it. Changes over the course of your life in how you feel about sex don’t mean that you were faking something before, and “I used to identify as ace, but that changed as I got older/dealt with some medical stuff that was affecting my sex drive” is a valid story to tell about your life if it is the true story.

Also, you treating your medical condition and having unexpected results isn’t a judgment on or a prescription for anyone else, so please resist any attempt to paint it that way. I can see why the implication that asexuality is a changeable condition that “just needs treatment!” is damaging to that community, but science also tells us that medication side effects and certain medical conditions can affect the human sex drive in multiple ways and directions over the course of a lifetime. You can’t be the only one who has ever been in this situation, so try to find the others and seek out their stories.

Here are some other suggestions for taking care of yourself right now:

  • Go very slow and give yourself time to get used to everything. Figure out your own desires and well-being. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything, especially not right this second.
  • If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.
  • When you’re ready, find one or two close trusted people in your ace friend group to talk things over with. These should be people you have lots of things in common with in addition to ace activism and bonding. Tell them what’s up and see what happens. Tell them how scared and worried you feel about breaking the news. Don’t try to approach it as a Whole Group-issue. One on one is best.
  • If they really are your friends, hopefully they’ll be kind to you and reassure you. They can be the ones who tell the rest of group for you, if that’s something you want to do. And hopefully the long history of affection and things you have in common will carry you.
  • If they express shock and discomfort, here’s a script: “I didn’t choose any of this – not how I felt before, not how I feel now. I’m still the same person who is your friend.
  • If they are mean to you and/or dismissive of you or accuse you of hurting them or the community, I’m so sorry: You’re gonna probably need to bail on that conversation and try again another time. You’re not hurting them, or anybody, by being who you are. 

 

 

 

150 comments
  1. RobinG said:

    There was a somewhat similar question on Dear Prudence just recently, in case that helps. You are certainly not alone. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2016/11/dear_prudence_i_m_in_danger_of_losing_my_asexuality.html

    Sometimes a lack of interest is caused by a medical issue, and sometimes it isn’t! In either cases, it can be temporary or permanent, and you might not know which one it is yourself.

    Claiming that asexuality is not real unless it is a medical condition is wrong, and so is claiming that it is not real when it is a medical condition. Both experiences are real.

    • Chessie said:

      Yes! Oh my goodness, I love this comment so hard.

      Story time: I used to identify as a lesbian. At the time, this label made sense to me because virtually all of the adults around me identified as either men or women, I had never felt attraction to men, and I had frequently felt attraction to women. All of the men I knew (seriously, all of them) were gross misogynists who barely thought of me as a person; who couldn’t/wouldn’t cook or clean up after themselves; and who were deeply, desperately neurotic about their gender and about whether they were doing masculinity “right.” I find all of those things a major turn-off, sexually and intellectually, and so I was not attracted to men.

      And then I moved halfway across the world, to a new city with a totally different culture. And lo and behold, some of the men and masculine-aligned people here are awesome and not misogynists at all. And are able to cry in front of me or show other soft emotions without freaking out and worrying that I’ll think they’re not manly. Some of them even wear skirts and dresses and cute shoes and makeup. I have friends now who are men and who, when I tell them they look pretty, blush and get bashful because they are sincerely flattered by that word. The culture of manhood and masculinity here is hugely different from how it was in the place where I used to live, and I’ve discovered that I find some of the men and masculine-aligned folks here very attractive and fuckable.

      If I had spent my whole life in the place where I used to live, I would quite likely have identified as a lesbian my whole life. And that label would have been accurate. In this new setting, it no longer fits, but I was genuinely, authentically a lesbian for a good decade following puberty. Would you ever dream of telling me that I was a lesbian because I just hadn’t met the right man? Of course not; that would be reductive in the extreme.

      LW, if you had gone your whole life without ever seeking treatment for your health troubles, maybe you would have identified as ace your whole life. The fact that it was possible for you to feel attraction following certain hormonal adjustments does not change the fact that you were ace — really and truly ace, regardless of why — for a significant part of your life. Anyone who claims that you’re somehow doing it wrong is someone who’s desperately insecure about their own stuff and about whether they’re doing it right in some kind of way. Please know that your feelings are valid, your labels are valid, * you * are valid. I think that you are super brave for acting on how you’re feeling. And if you want to come out to people when you feel the time is right, then great; and if you don’t, that’s also totally fine. Do what you feel like doing and live how you want to live, and good people will stand by you.

      • Phospher said:

        Dude, where did you move?!

        • Seriously can we all move there? It sounds great.

          • RiverSongTam said:

            Thirding this *so* hard!

          • Phospher said:

            I keep checking back here to find out!

        • Chessie said:

          Portland, Oregon. Definitely get yourself over here.

          • Deep River said:

            This cracks me up because I posted down thread about being lesbian identified and suddenly curious about men. The only difference is I am a lifelong Oregonian — not Portland, but still within the liberal part of the state, within Portland’s sphere of influence — and part of what’s driving my curiosity about men is befriending a woman who is from a more conservative state and has an air of having lived without the particular weight of Oregon on her for the last 30 years, like I am seeing from her there may be options other than what I know.

            I agree with Chessie’s assessment that Oregon men are less Neanderthal, more sensitive, than those elsewhere. The problem for me is that more sensitive often crosses the line into Look How Sensitive I Am and What A Wounded Victim I Am and How Can You Expect Me To Work For A Living When I Am Such A Sensitive Artistic Genius. Oregon men can be so childlike that I saw my best chance for pairing with an adult as pairing with a woman.

            If a man in a skirt is what Chessie needs, I am glad they found each other. It is so funny that two people could have such opposite reactions to Oregon, though.

          • Chessie said:

            @Deep River, wow, way to reduce the nuanced stuff I was trying to convey about the beautiful and awesome friends I’ve made here to “a man in a skirt.” While also putting totally gross and essentialist words in my mouth. Ew. * brushes teeth * I’m sorry that you’ve had negative experiences here, but could you maybe share them without being a jerk about it? Or maybe we could just stop this side thread, it’s pretty off-topic. Blech.

          • Deep River said:

            Yeah, I have had bad experiences here — as you had bad experiences wherever you were from too. I am glad you have found friends and a situation that are a good fit for you in Oregon. I am genuinely glad, even proud, that men who want to wear skirts and the people who love them have a place to do that in Oregon that they might not elsewhere, and I wasn’t meaning that as a negative or reductive statement about you or those men. But this really gets to the heart of the original poster’s issue — how can OP find a way to separate from an identity that is no longer a good fit for OP without causing problems with/for others who do still find that identity a good fit for them? It’s hard to have that discussion without offending people even when the identity in question is just Oregonian and not anything to do with sex!

            As far as the “born that way” element of sexuality controversies, I was born in Oregon, I have ancestors born in Oregon as early as 1908 — you can’t get much more born that way if Oregonian is the identity in question, but at this point maybe you, the recent immigrant, are a better Oregonian than I am. I have felt a sense of loss over this coming down the last few months, and I am angry to be losing this identity that has been part of me since before I was thinking about sexuality, and I am sorry if that came across like I was angry at you.

          • (That was my first guess, yay! I have friends out that way and they love it.)

            So happy for you that you found your people, your urban tribe. That’s fantastic.

  2. Jingo said:

    I just want to say–tropes and stereotypes are harmful, and they suck, but only because they are applied to other people in a way that erases or diminishes them and their personhood. The flipside of this is that there will be people where the trope or stereotype is true, and that is *okay*. Just like it’s okay for a real gay man to be feminine, or a real woman to love the color pink and have 20 pairs of shoes–real, actual people with real, actual experiences–it is okay for you to have thought you were ace until you had medical attention that flipped that on its head. That isn’t a betrayal, it’s you being you. The only thing you have to do is not imply that because that was your experience that it is true of most/all asexual people. And it sounds like that is the last thing you want to do.

    Losing a place in a community you felt ties to for so long sounds hard. Good luck while you’re feeling things out.

    • rydra_wong said:

      The only thing you have to do is not imply that because that was your experience that it is true of most/all asexual people.

      I wonder if it could be helpful for the OP to explicitly say to their friends something like, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn into the douchecanoe who goes round telling other asexual people that it’s a medical problem and they should get it fixed. This is just the weird thing that’s happened to me.”

      • morgansd said:

        Honestly, I’m not sure it would. Speaking as a former mod of a big asexual Facebook group, “asexual elitism” is a real thing amongst some (gross and extremely insecure) asexuals. These are people who will try to police me into not identifying as aromantic and asexual because I’m in a relationship with an allosexual person. They are a minority of asexuals, but like a lot of hard-line thinkers, they can be pretty vocal.

        Asexuality as a concept was created by David Jay (the person who coined the term for the orientation) to be an umbrella term, and to accept that sexuality and romanticism are fluid things that can change over time. Many asexuals understand and accept that — but the ones who don’t are pretty hard to convince otherwise, in my experience.

      • H.Regalis said:

        I think that’s something you show by your actions rather than say. “Don’t worry; I’m not going to turn into a judgemental monster now haha,” comes off as massively insecure, and it’s not going to help ward off the hardline people the other commentor mentioned who are most likely to give the LW shit about their situation.

        • Absolutely nothing wards off hardline people. They are worse than vampires.

          So ignore them. Why should they be the rule makers?

          • WayofCats, I think this is the best advice, but also the hardest. The people who need to be ignored the most are also usually the loudest and most boundary-stomping people in a particular group.

            Personally, I struggled for a long time with ignoring toxic loudmouths becuase I wanted to “give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” and thought I could soothe the savage beasts with my dulcet tones of reasonableness and et cetera ad nauseum, and then I got too old and cranky, and busy, to have the free supply of spoons to coddle people who were committed to being meaniepants asshats. That also involved getting over my self-image as an Awesome Peacemaker, which, sure, sometimes I was, but clinging to that identity I valued so much made me a mark for meaniepants asshats who weren’t going to play by the same rules of fair play and politeness that I was, they were going to stomp all over everything at whim, be capricious and reward pleasantries with shitfulness.

            You may have to just live the experience to decide to skip ahead to the “ignore shitbirds” phase, though. No one could have gotten through to me at the time that sunshine and light were not going to win, especially online, with someone who had their own story going in their head where they were the hero and I was inadvertently making them feel bad about their feels or they just didn’t like me or whatever.

            LW, if you can ignore those who refuse to understand your situation, it might be the most healthy choice, but I know the temptation to explain yourself at length will be really difficult to resist. Take care of yourself, and if some people act like they are unlikely to accept that you’re still you, and you still have the best intentions and aren’t going to be That Person who diminishes other currently ace people’s identities/feelings/thoughts, then illegitimi non carborundum.

    • Brooks Moses said:

      Tiny wording comment: The LW didn’t “think they were ace”. They *were* asexual, legitimately and really and truly.

      Identities sometimes change, but having them change doesn’t invalidate the former identity.

      • Chessie said:

        +1

      • piny1 said:

        Different people relate to these changes in different ways. If someone defines their experience as, “I was ace and now I would not consider myself ace,” that’s valid. If someone instead defines their experience as, “I considered myself ace, but I was actually experiencing a medical condition that suppressed my sexual feelings, so I now consider myself to have always been a gay man, and I think my earlier identity as ace was mistaken,” that is also valid.

        It’s important to honor fluidity and individuation, and to acknowledge the reality that many people experience shifts in feelings and identity. On the other hand, “I was closeted,” and “I was hiding my authentic feelings,” and “I grew up in an x-ist culture that taught me to dismiss my sexual orientation and feelings as not real or significant or sufficient, so I didn’t recognize them as part of my identity,” and, “I thought every woman had ‘girl crushes,'” and, “My doctor told me that I should expect to lose a lot of sexual interest and physical sensation after my surgery, and strongly implied that I should no longer prioritize sexual pleasure in the same way,” and, “I’ve been on this medication since I was thirteen, and nobody involved in my care has ever even mentioned sex as a related concern,” and, “My parents and our family doctor assumed I would never have sex,” and, “I was convinced that I could only be a burden on anyone who loved me,” are also valid examples of human sexual and romantic fluidity and individuation. We should be careful not to pressure LW – or anyone reading – to feel any kind of way about their past ID as ace.

        And just in terms of grappling in a responsive and open way with different kinds and levels of -phobia, it’s important to make sure that nobody feels pressured to flatten their identity into some reductive form that’s more acceptable to other people – for whatever reason! But at the same time, the experience of that pressure is something common to many people in the LGBTQ community, as well as other marginalized groups, and it’s also important to give people space to consider that pressure from a critical distance. It’s also important to recognize just how complicated and ambiguous and insidious that pressure can be, such that it can take years or decades to sort out.

        I’m not implying that LW was closeted or self-loathing in any way, but I think we should be careful not to frame internalized -phobia as an inauthentic or stereotypical concept.

        • This is a kind and insightful comment.

        • Parenthetically said:

          Thank you for all of this.

        • ‘”I grew up in an x-ist culture that taught me to dismiss my sexual orientation and feelings as not real or significant or sufficient, so I didn’t recognize them as part of my identity,” and, “I thought every woman had ‘girl crushes,’”’

          At the risk of being slightly off-topic, I wanted to thank you for putting so clearly into words something that so neatly encapsulates my own experiences, that also underscores the necessity of respecting people’s identities as real and valid, even if they don’t line up with popular narratives – or, in these cases, line up unfortunately well with a narrative used to belittle or invalidate.

          • piny1 said:

            Hey, so, just a blanket thank you to all three of you – this is very kind of you to say, and I’m glad it’s helpful. Particularly since our country seems to be trying to roll itself back to c. 2004, I’ve been thinking a lot about internalized homophobia myself, so.

  3. Amber Rose said:

    Sexuality can and does change, that’s why instead of a binary (gay/straight) it’s a scale of sorts, and sliding along it happens. You can probably omit telling people about medical treatment (because none of their business really) and just explain you no longer identify as asexual. Maybe tell a couple close friends the whole story so they can be your back up. But seriously, medical treatment is personal. Feel free to say “I’d rather not discuss it” on repeat if you get any “but whyyyyy” responses.

    • Dizzy said:

      Treat it like a medical thing, since that’s what it is. I’m ace as hell when I’m depressed–what with that being a side effect of depression–and pretty ace-ish even when I’m not. I could give or take sex, for the most part. That doesn’t change the fact that when my depression is being treated I sometimes have an actual sex drive.

      Medicine is weird. SSRI antidepressants are well known for killing sex drive. So does mental illness, and thyroid stuff, and that’s WHY most people recommend seeing a doctor if you don’t have an interest in sex. The body and medication DO sometimes have problems that LEGITIMATELY do cause low sex drive.

      I understand that it’s very harmful for ace folks to constantly hear “Have you tried exercise/seeing a doctor?” especially if they’re perfectly happy being ace, but that doesn’t change the fact that some low/non-existent sex drives are caused by body problems. You’re not a bad person for having an previously unknown medical disorder. You’re not a bad person for finding a community that you accidentally grew out of.

      I’m sorry you’re worried about losing your support network. It’s hard making friends and connections and then losing them. I’ve actually gotten questions before on how to rebuild a support network from a DFAB person who was transitioning and was grieving losing his female-specific spaces. It hurts, and it sucks a lot!

      I hope things work out for you, LW, I really do.

      • notemily said:

        Yeah, I consider myself gray-ace, because I believe my lack of sex drive is mostly caused by the medications I’m on and some issues from sexual trauma when I was younger. I have no idea what it’d be like without those two factors in place. Probably straight, since I’ve always been heteroromantic, but who knows? Right now I’m pretty happy without sex as part of my life, no matter how much certain allosexual friends of mine try to convince me that I’m doing myself a disservice.

  4. First of all, I offer you many hugs if you want them. Having something that was a cornerstone of your identity change on you is scary and can really throw everything else off balance. Above all, please be kind to yourself right now (and always, but especially right now) and know that you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of.

    Secondly, I’m ace. Not especially involved in the community these days, but still very firmly ace. And I wanted to suggest that you change your framing of the issue in your mind. Rather than, “I was just a fake ace,” it might help to frame it as, “I was ace and now I am not.” What you felt before you started taking your medication was valid. The lack of desire was real and the way it impacted your life was also real. That doesn’t sound fake at all. Conversely, the desire you’re experiencing now is also real and also impacts your life in real ways. I feel like it might be better to frame it as change rather than ‘faking’, both in your own mind and when (or if!) you discuss it with people.

    Which brings me to my second point, namely that the asexual community as I know it thrives on the understanding and acknowledgment that people change. Again, I haven’t been active in the community for a while, but I don’t see why that would have changed. The whole idea of asexuality being caused be medical conditions or just a phase or whatever are ideas which were imposed on the community by people outside of it. They’re not narratives that I’ve seen being embraced by the actual community at all. Instead, what I’ve experienced is a widespread understanding that people change and that what’s true for someone at one point in their life may not be true for them at another. In other words, sometimes people’s sexualities change. Sometimes people decide that the ways they described their sexualities don’t fit them. These things happen and I’ve always known the asexual community to be very open to that kind of thing.

    At the end of the day, as the good captain says, your identity is there to help you, not the other way around. If your friends react badly to you addressing a medical concern, I would ask them to think very hard about why they consider what is essentially a tool of self-description to be more important than your physical health.

    Also, to tack on a last thing to an already too long comment, please don’t think that not being ace anymore means you have to leave the community. Having people who are not ace advocate for us is important, and your experiences while you did still identify as ace make you an especially valuable ally if you choose to pursue that option. (You don’t have to, of course, but it sounds like being part of the ace community is important to you, and I just wanted to reassure you that you don’t have to remove yourself from the community just because you don’t identify as ace anymore.)

    • I was going to chime in with something but actually this comment covers exactly what I was going to say. LW, I’ve also seen this emphasis on using the labels that work for you, when they work for you, within the ace community and within the broader LGBT+ community that accepts aces (if you’re not familiar with anti-ace discourse on Tumblr, uh…don’t go looking for it, please save yourself). You might not be able to participate in certain aspects of the ace community anymore just because you no longer share specific experiences, but aces tend to be pretty understanding about sexuality being fluid rather than a fixed point, and as long as you’re not coming in all “hey guys it turns out my asexuality was TOTALLY FAKE because I just got it MEDICALLY FIXED and now you all MUST do the same thing!!!” (which clearly you’re not, since you’re concerned about this!), I think most people should be perfectly accepting. Because, again, labels are there to help YOU, not the other way around, and that means sometimes they change as you do. I think the vast majority of us understand that.

      And yes, having non-ace people who still support the ace community is really important–I’m always deeply touched whenever I see someone who isn’t ace vehemently defending ace folks–so don’t think people will want nothing to do with you or something.

      …and I guess I ended up commenting after all, OH WELL, the point is LW you’re great, your labels are great as long as they do their only important job (i.e., making you feel more comfortable and more /yourself/), hugs if you want them.

      • Lirael said:

        Thirding both of these comments. I’m also ace, and my experience of the ace community is that we tend to be pretty accepting of people’s orientations changing. When someone discovers that their orientation has shifted such that they no longer identify as ace, I’ve generally seen aces be happy for that person because they’ve figured out something about themselves, not judgmental because YOU MUST REMAIN ACE FOREVER OR YOU ARE A TOTALLY FAKE FAKER. Your asexuality turned out to be because of a medical issue. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to start going around saying that other people’s is – this is just your experience. I hope your friends turn out to be as accepting of that as most of the other aces I’ve seen. (If not, and if you still want to be connected to the ace community, there are plenty of areas of the community where you will find acceptance as a former ace!)

        And I agree, non-ace allies are awesome, ESPECIALLY when they have personal experience of being ace and can speak to what it’s like. So I don’t think not being ace anymore means you need to leave the ace community entirely if you don’t want to. It just means your role within the community will change a bit.

  5. kbee said:

    Hey LW. Personally I struggle a lot with ace identity – I’ve gone from ‘yup, I’m definitely ace’ to ‘hmm probably not’ to ‘hmmmm wait definitely yes’ over the last decade, and I’ve waffled over what story to tell people, too. I just want to chime in and say: even if you no longer describe yourself as ace, that didn’t mean you were faking. It’s a descriptive label for you, at a point in time, it doesn’t have to be Always True Forever and Ever or Else It Was All a Lie.

    You’ve made a bunch of friends via ace forums and that’s great! – if they’re good friends, they’ll understand, and support you. Your friendship started out by bonding over ace stuff but I bet you have lots more in common, too.

    Hugs if you want ’em.

  6. You are not a banner for other people to carry. You are a person!

    As such, you are simply another example of the wild and crazy spectrum which is humanity. This happened to you. Share it. Add to the sum of knowledge.

    The only request asked of us is that we be our Best Self. That is what you are doing. Thank you and keep doing it 🙂

  7. Warship said:

    As someone who is identify as asexual myself, there is no betrayal in your feelings changing. Labels are tools. They are useful when they are useful, but they are something that we decide to describe ourselves with. They are not a brand burned into your forehead. And yes the “you’ll grow out of it” thing is annoying and perpetuates the idea that disinterest in sex in immaturity. But it is the people who say this who are the problem, not those who happened to actually grow out of it. And the “have you checked to make sure it is not a medical problem” can be really toxic and pressuring. If the issue is pressed it can make people feel like that their asexuality is something that is wrong with them that they need to fix. I say “can” because sometimes there actually is a medical problem, and then there is nothing wrong with getting that sorted. The problem isn’t the people who have something medical messing up their sex drive. That would be ridiculous. The problem is the people who pressure asexuals to “fix” their sexuality, which is gross. What I mean is, you have not done anything to asexual community that you can be blamed for. You are just being who you are. Hopefully, your friends can understand that.

  8. You sought treatment for a serious medical condition. You did *not* seek treatment to “cure” your sexuality.

    • Mary said:

      I actually felt a little sad that LW felt that they needed to emphasise that so strongly. LW, if you had decided to take hormones to change your sexual experience, that would be ok. Yes, there are a ton of issues about mainstream and marginalised identities, and yes, your ace friends would be legit in having Feelings about that – but, like, it’s your body, your experience, your choice. Try and let go of some of the guilt around that, LW. You don’t owe it to anyone.

      • piny1 said:

        These are very personal issues, and everyone has the right to process them on their own terms. However, sexual function changes are sometimes related to a pretty wide range of medical issues. Sexual satisfaction – and feelings of discomfort, physical pain, anxiety, shame, and lack of desire – are often dismissed by medical professionals, but especially when they’re raised as concerns by LGBTQ, women, and gnc people. Patients often feel ashamed to talk openly about their sexual needs, too, and second-guess their own feelings of dissatisfaction. It’s okay to see these things as a personal priority and quality-of-life issue when seeking care, and to advocate for yourself based on what you see as an ideal medical outcome. It’s also okay to pay attention to these changes and to include them when talking to a medical professional.

        • Also, even when we bring up libido we are often told to be grateful about medical thing now under control and to shut up about minor side effects.

          I’d like to paraphrase R.C. Lewontin: There are no side effects. Substances have effects, some of which we want, others we don’t

  9. 13thsong said:

    Also, identity *can* be fluid over the course of a lifetime, and having sexual feelings *now* does not make you a “fake” asexual then. People varied and complex. Labels should be a tool, not a prescription.

  10. Oh, friend. ❤ Nothing about identifying as asexual was "fake" for you. There are thousands of people who have at one point identified as one sexuality and then their feelings and experiences changed and they changed their identity/label with it. This has happened for straight people, for gay people, for bisexual people, for asexual people, for someone of every orientation (and gender identity too). Sexuality is such a vast, weird spectrum of human experiences and desires and you are not a "traitor" for realizing that yours has changed. It is okay. You are valid.

    As an ace-spectrum/demisexual person, I say that any of your ace friends who get angry with you because you don't feel comfortable identifying as asexual are not really your friends. They are, of course, allowed to process their feelings however they like, privately, but if they are cruel to you or try to argue or shut you out or punish you, they are showing their character and it's not a good look. You will find new friends who accept you just as you are. Best of luck.

    • I’m demi as well, and whereas SOME of that may be due to lifelong depression, and SOME of it may be due to hardcore introversion, and whereas I only recently found the proper term to describe my inclinations (etc.), I would be very grumpy if someone tried to tell me I was not really feeling that way, and/or that I was misidentifying myself, whether accidentally or on purpose. Like, was I misidentifying myself when I just casually labeled myself by default as straight? Was I misleading my past boyfriends by not knowing the term to best describe myself? No, but it didn’t tell the whole story. Once I got more information and recognized myself in the demi description, I learned something new about myself and had a more clear way to describe myself. I’m still me, and nothing changes who I was then or who I’ll be in the future, I just have a handy term that helps me describe myself more efficiently, and it also makes me feel a little less alone or “weird.” If the term no longer was a good fit for me in the future, would I be wrong or lying about it for identifying with it right now? Again, I say no.

      What, exactly, are you taking away from your ace friends now that you have more information about yourself than you did before? You’re still you, you still understand where they are coming from, and you’re not going to be a jerk and tell them that ALL ace folks just need a doctor to “fix” them, because you know they don’t.

      One thing you can’t do, LW, is stuff your newly-shifted identity into a box and lock it away because you are concerned about what other people will think or feel about it. That’s not going to work out long term. You wouldn’t demand it of your ace friends and they shouldn’t demand it of you.

  11. twomoogles said:

    Oof, letter writer, I feel those feels. I think this is a damaging consequence of the “you’ll change your mind” language around a lot of things, but especially sexuality (though there are other examples, like not wanting kids). It pressures people to say “No, I won’t change my mind! This is how I’ll feel forever!” in response to people being dismissive, as though the only “real” sexuality/gender expression/anything is the one that is permanent and unchanging.

    These things can change! I understand the resistance to that idea, because people have used that in harmful ways, trying to “change” everyone so they are closer to the heterosexual monogamous societal expectations. just because something changes, doesn’t mean it’s controllable. I mean, I used to hate peas and now I like them but at no point did I ever say to myself “I am now going to change my preferences in this way!” And I hated beets and still do. Nobody seems to have a problem understanding that, but as soon as it comes to sexuality, people suddenly seem to think if something ever alters that means the way it was before was a “lie” or fake or something.

    I really wish there was a way to stop this idea that if something is not true always, that means it was never true.

    • DropTable~DropsMic said:

      Conversely, this is why I dislike the “born this way” rhetoric used by some LGBT activists. I’m bisexual. I *could* marry a man and have 2.6 children and never date women in my life. But I don’t want to, and that’s reason enough.

      • Mary said:

        Yep. We don’t grant rights based on whether you were “born that way”: if someone turns up a gene that predisposes a person to violence, we’re not going to say, “oh, fair enough, you can’t help that, here, have a cricket bat.” What matters is whether or not your behaviour harms others or not.

        • piny1 said:

          I think it’s really important not to accidentally promote comparisons between LGBTQ identity and pathological or harmful behavior. I think I would also say that it’s important to frame LGBTQ identities as much more than “not harmful to others.” That’s a pretty lukewarm level of support for something so intimately linked to self-expression, partnership, love, and family relationships.

          Also, I agree with many of the critiques of “born this way” and “they can’t help it” rhetoric. I also support people in my community who feel that other frameworks more accurately describe them. However, it is important to respect assertions by many LGBTQ people that their identities/feelings/affinities are lifelong and unchanging, and not frame these statements as only “rhetoric” or politicized pathos.

          Finally, “born this way” and “can’t help it” emerged as a response to prior framing of LGBTQ identities as perverse antisocial impulses that were responsive to social pressure and punishment. “Born this way” and “can’t help it” were an attempt to fight that framing in order to access a greater level of civil and social protection, and they weren’t totally ineffective.

          • DropTable~DropsMic said:

            Yeah, and I’m sorry if it sounded like I am dumping on people who do feel their identity is unchanging. More like, if you’re going to make an argument as to why LGBTA people should be respected and not discriminated against, it needs to include more than just “they can’t help it” because that is not how it works for everyone.

          • Mary said:

            Hm, I don’t really agree. When someone makes a case for LGBT+ rights on the basis that “we/they were born this way”, that sounds to me exactly like they’re saying that the only basis on which I’m allowed to be queer is if I can’t help it. I’ve never felt “burn this way”: my queerness is a mixture of who knows what influences and opportunities and cultural possibilities, and it doesn’t matter in the least. The basis on which I claim my right to a queer identity and a queer life is that queer and that it doesn’t harm anyone. Why I’m queer is irrelevant.

            That absolutely doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s belief that they were born queer or would have been queer no matter what their social context. It’s just saying, that’s a *terrible* and self-defeating basis on which to fight for our civil rights, and I reject it.

          • In fact, they were quite effective with straight people who needed, at least initially, a framework for accepting and including non straight people.

          • It also has the downside that there are people who then declare that they won’t accept queer sexuality until it can be proven to be 100% biologically based. I have actually met someone who said, “I won’t believe in gay people until they can show me the gay gene.” *facepalm* #geneticsdontworklikethat

      • Raptor said:

        And even if you do marry a man, that doesn’t mean you’re straight. That’s probably my least favorite part about being bi.
        “Aren’t you straight now?”
        “Nooo, I’m just not dating all the awesome attractive women out there in the same way I’m not dating all the awesome attractive men who aren’t Mr. Raptor. Because I’m monogamous.”

        • espritdecorps said:

          Yup.

          I enjoy my attraction to people in general and women specifically much more as a married woman than a single one.

          When single, attraction meant investing considerable time and energy into figuring out:
          Was the other person attracted to women?
          Was the other person be attracted to me?
          How to figure that out?
          Were they flirting with me or a touchy-feely person?
          Maybe both?
          Were they worth being attracted to?
          Should I trust my attraction?
          Was it worth it to nurture my attraction to them?
          Do they want just sex or relationship?
          Do I want just sex or a relationship?
          Should I wear that?
          Or this?
          Am I boring?
          Was that weird to say?

          Now being attracted to someone means I’m in the company of an attractive person. Which is quite lovely without the mountains of anxiety.

      • Leemac said:

        Yup.

        Not to mention some very bigoted queers who STILL! post on an LJ I wrote over a decade ago about being a dyke who has had sex with men in the past, and who won’t rule out it ever happening again, despite the fact I don’t ID as bisexual (not the slightest romantic feeling for a man, ever, and very few sexual ones… when I was desperate).

        But still, there are people – who have been out for half the time since I last shagged a man – who are quite adamant about telling me that I’m “really” bisexual, and that I am putting their whole identity at risk. Power to the penis, eh? And really sad that some young queers still have these attitudes.

  12. kaberett said:

    For what it’s worth: I have identified as queer since my early teens, but for a while in my late teens (I’m now 26) a set of hormones I was on for a serious medical condition meant I abruptly experienced overwhelming lust for stereotypical beefcake (no, more muscle-bound than that) on dudes *only*, like, instantaneous hindbrain full-body physiological reaction.

    It was *really weird*.

    Eighteen months later, or so, I stopped taking those particular hormones (because they’d stopped doing the job they were supposed to, unequivocally, and the side effects were awful), and… was a great big queer again. But I haven’t experienced that kind of lust either before or since, which has helped me suss out a theory of attraction and how it works for me some, but the actual point I’m trying to meander to, I think, is: sexuality is fluid. That doesn’t mean that you necessarily have control over it. I’m sorry it’s so weird and unsettling, and I’m sorry that you are having to deal with things settling out, but — this is not a betrayal, this is not a failure on your part, it is especially not a failure of ideological purity or whatever on your part, people who will try to use you to browbeat asexuals are the problem, *not* you.

    Just — I remember how weird and unsettled I felt when this particular terrain shifted under me, so you have my every sympathy, and also congratulations on getting the health issue investigated and treated. ❤

    • Purps said:

      I used to consider it a HUGE PROBLEM that on the fourteenth day of each menstrual cycle I was overwhelmingly attracted to male-bodied dude people even when I was dating someone who was a woman and/or female-bodied. I was very insecure in my bisexuality, so it was like OH NO, MY HETEROSEXUALITY IS COMING BACK. Then three days later I felt fine again and was annoyed at myself for freaking out.

      When we regard so many of these things as disputed turf – like it’s actually okay for someone to come along and audit your queerness! – it’s easy to feel like we have to build up these portfolios of proof. And we don’t, we don’t, we don’t. We’re adequate. We’re enough. We’re fine.

      LW, it might help to think to yourself some about what sexual attraction is and isn’t. We live in a really toxic culture around sexuality; god knows lots of allosexual people have fears and nervousness about what feeling sexual attraction to other humans means, and the ethics thereof. I can’t recommend Come As You Are enough for useful metaphors about what sexual attraction actually is: the main thing is that it’s not actually a drive so much as a kind of biological curiosity or interest. The brain goes “oh, that’s interesting.” In a perfect world where no one had to defend their sexual and romantic identity, maybe this would be like “I suddenly realized that it might be really fun to start a two-person folk band with someone. I think I really want that to happen! I never thought about that before, but now I’m pretty sure. Maybe when I’m ready I’ll go to some jam sessions, and I’m suddenly noticing musicians and thinking about whether I’d like to play music with them.” A whole new potential hobby and way of relating to someone is open to you, but that doesn’t mean that you were faking it back when for what you now see were, for you, health reasons you were mostly not all that interested in playing music with people, and did other stuff with your time, and didn’t consider whether someone would be a good bandmate.

      • That is a really good way of putting it!

        • Purps said:

          It might help my metaphor if you know that I’m profoundly unmusical and live in a Music Town 😀 My friends are in bands, and I have to schedule around their band practices, and I don’t even listen to music on Spotify most of the time, because it just doesn’t occur to me.

  13. B. said:

    Hey. Hey, you were never a “fake ace”. You were ace, and then you changed, and now maybe that word doesn’t fit you anymore, and that’s okay. Your aceness was valid, it is a valid way to describe you for as long as you decide that that’s a part of your identity. Labels are there to help, to be used by people who want to. People are always more important than labels. You were never faking it.

    A wise person once told me “my phase, my indecision”. It comes from “my body, my decision”: just as no one can ever tell you what to do with your body, no one can ever tell you to pick a label and stick with it. You get to experiment. You get to find yourself. You get to have a phase (or several), to get out of a phase, to be in between phases. You get to never define yourself to the rest of the world if you don’t wish to. And if you do wish to, you get to use the words that work better for you.

    What I’m trying to say is, change is valid, phases are valid, growth is valid. You don’t have to stick yourself into a narrative that’s not working for you. Words and their meaning change to reflect what their users want them to say, not the other way around.

    LW, your friends are your friends ’cause they know you rock. That’s not going to change with this new development in the awesome opera that is being you ❤

    PS: the credit from the sentence "mi fase, mi indecisión" goes to Colectiva Desorientada, which you can find here (https://twitter.com/C_Desorientada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw) and here (https://www.flickr.com/photos/acampadabcnfoto/27967063821/in/album-72157670529146065/).

  14. Mary said:

    LW, I’ve no experience of this within the asexual community, but I’ve seen similar things happen with other queer people – specifically, with people who identified as lesbian and had strong ties with the lesbian/queer community and then fell in love with a man. (I’m bi, so in a couple of places I was the “safe” confidante for someone in this situation, because she trusted I wasn’t going to freak out and be all, “BUT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE LESBIAN” at her.) I’ve also seen a couple of people who were avowedly childfree and has built a community around that switch teams and deal with fallout.

    It is pretty scary and surprising to find you identity change like that! And the bad news is: the phenomenon of people feeeling betrayed and picking on you or rejecting you because you no longer identify with the marginalised group is a real one, unfortunately. This is because when you build that community around a shared, marginalised identity, you create a sense of opposition, and it can feel pretty upsetting to see one of your co-groupers leave the fold. People tend to go through stages of realising that identity: thinking you’re the only one, finding and building to community, committing very strongly to that identity, being angry with the mainstream society who doesn’t recognise or respect that identity … and often, gradually getting to a place where it’s part of your identity, but it’s not THE thing. Typically, people in the “strongly committed, angry at the mainstream” stage will find it harder to accept someone changing their relationship to the identity. People in the “yeah, it’s a thing, but it’s not the only thing” will probably be more relaxed.

    If people do get angry or upset, that’s internalised prejudice. That’s people feeling that their identity is under attack because your identity has changed. It’s real, and it’s a thing, but it’s not your job to change or apologise, and there will also be people who just go, “oh, huh, really? Fancy that!” Fingers crossed you find plenty of those people too!

    • johann7 said:

      I was going to make a similar comment validating the fears as, unfortunately, reasonable ones to have, but this is a much better and more succinct comment than I would have written!

  15. Madb said:

    We don’t know each other, but I’m very much asexual. I want you to know that there is as little wrong with discovering that you do have a sex drive as there is in discovering you don’t. People change. The fact that you, individually, found out it was more a chemical goof rather than an innate part of yourself doesn’t mean you will lose track of the way it felt to be ace. I’d say something along the lines of “Yeah, I really get asexuality in a way most people won’t. Pretty cool to have an advocate like that, right?”

  16. onyx said:

    Hi, fellow Ace here. There’s a lot to unpack, but don’t factor in celibacy as as something you need to maintain lest you “out” yourself. Having sex while being asexual doesn’t…cancel out your asexuality. I have sex! I enjoy sex! I’m still ace. Not even demisexual. Sexuality DOES change, and that is okay! But even if it didn’t, being asexual does not mean being celibate. They are completely different things, and anyone in the Ace community who tries to police behavior as if it dictated orientation is full of shit and needs to get off their high horse. That kind of attitude is toxic and alienating, no different than how some gays and lesbians ostracize bisexuals for “not being gay enough” if they get enter a hetero relationship.

    So don’t worry about whether being sexually active somehow betrays your current orientation to the world. It doesn’t. Some people might be assholes and patronize you, but they suck and you don’t want them as friends anyway, so it’s no loss.

    • laina1312 said:

      Seconding this. While you (not you, onyx, general you) may choose to identify as asexual because you have no interest in sex and that’s completely valid, a much more common (and often, more accurate for many of us) definition is the lack of sexual ATTRACTION. Sexual attraction and sex drive are entirely different things. My sex drive flucuates. My sexual attraction is pretty steady in the “it’s very rare” department (hence me being all grey ace/aro up in here).

      Some ace people have sex. Some ace people have sex drives. Some ace people have sexual relationships. Some ace people are hypersexual even. They’re all still ace, if they identify as ace.

      Your orientation is (probably) not based on your sex drive, OP. If you feel like another label fits better, awesome! I hope it feels like a warm sweater on a cold day 😀 If, after some time, you feel like asexuality still suits you based on a lack of sexual attraction, your sex drive flucuating does not change that!

  17. I don’t have any advice, but as an ace person who does spend some time in the ace community, I just wanted to say that the ace community only exists for the people in it. Its not some independent thing deserving of your validation. Your personal experiences are true and valid, so unless you start going around announcing that all asexuality is fake or something, you aren’t propping up stereotypes. Stereotypers are doing that. You haven’t betrayed anyone, or let anyone down.

    Whether you end up feeling that you were ace and now are not. Or thought you might be ace, but ultimately weren’t. Or any other narrative that work for you, they’re all good and valid, and I just hope that the ace community was supportive when you needed them, and that we’re all equally supportive if you choose to leave.

    Lots of hugs and support from me 🙂

  18. morgansd said:

    As an aromantic asexual person, I have only one thought on this: the Captain is spot-freaking-on. If any of the ace people you know try to give you crap for realizing who you are and that ace no longer fits you as an identity, they are bad friends (imo they’re not real friends at all, full stop) AND they have failed to grasp one of the most fundamental concepts of asexual identities. David Jay has spoken out time and again saying that asexual is and has always been an umbrella term, that it *has* to be because sexuality is so often fluid.

    I happen to be a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I also happen to be in a committed relationship with an alloromantic, allosexual woman. Both those things have led other asexual people to argue with me about my identity at times: that I can’t be aro because I fell in love with one person, even though I can’t imagine ever feeling this way for anyone else. Far worse, I’ve had some try to tell me that my identity can’t be real because I was abused as a very young child.

    They are wrong about me and they are wrong about you. If you know the term “truscum”, I think the asexual people who would tell either of us that we’re “betraying” the ace community as the asexual answer to truscum. They’re too caught up in their own insecurities to let other people exist with all the nuance and growth and change that should be considered natural.

    You identified as ace while it was a useful label to you. I identified as bisexual and pansexual for the same reason until I discovered the term “asexual”. You are not betraying the ace community by discovering that identity doesn’t fit as well as you thought, any more than I betrayed the bi or pan communities by discovering those labels didn’t quite fit me. Self-discovery is never, ever a betrayal or a failure. And anyone who truly cares for you won’t let their insecurities and fear get in the way of supporting you in figuring out who you really are.

    I hope so hard that you don’t closet yourself indefinitely with your ace friends. I hope that few of them will turn out to be false friends who only liked you when they thought you were just like them. But in the end, just as any allosexual who rejected you for coming out as ace was not a good friend, any ace who rejects you for coming out as allo is not a good friend.

    You deserve to live openly as who you are and be loved and supported in that, band absolutely nothing less.

  19. morgansd said:

    As an aromantic asexual person, I have only one thought on this: the Captain is spot-freaking-on. If any of the ace people you know try to give you crap for realizing who you are and that ace no longer fits you as an identity, they are bad friends (imo they’re not real friends at all, full stop) AND they have failed to grasp one of the most fundamental concepts of asexual identities. David Jay has spoken out time and again saying that asexual is and has always been an umbrella term, that it *has* to be because sexuality is so often fluid.

    I happen to be a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I also happen to be in a committed relationship with an alloromantic, allosexual woman. Both those things have led other asexual people to argue with me about my identity at times: that I can’t be aro because I fell in love with one person, even though I can’t imagine ever feeling this way for anyone else. Far worse, I’ve had some try to tell me that my identity can’t be real because I was abused as a very young child.

    They are wrong about me and they are wrong about you. If you know the term “truscum”, I think the asexual people who would tell either of us that we’re “betraying” the ace community as the asexual answer to truscum. They’re too caught up in their own insecurities to let other people exist with all the nuance and growth and change that should be considered natural.

    You identified as ace while it was a useful label to you. I identified as bisexual and pansexual for the same reason until I discovered the term “asexual”. You are not betraying the ace community by discovering that identity doesn’t fit as well as you thought, any more than I betrayed the bi or pan communities by discovering those labels didn’t quite fit me. Self-discovery is never, ever a betrayal or a failure. And anyone who truly cares for you won’t let their insecurities and fear get in the way of supporting you in figuring out who you really are.

    I hope so hard that you don’t closet yourself indefinitely with your ace friends. I hope that few of them will turn out to be false friends who only liked you when they thought you were just like them. But in the end, just as any allosexual who rejected you for coming out as ace was not a good friend, any ace who rejects you for coming out as allo is not a good friend.

    You deserve to live openly as who you are and be loved and supported in that, band absolutely nothing less.

  20. @LW: Congratulations on having your medical issues treated! @kaberett: Thank you for sharing your experience! I honestly had no idea that sexuality could change on a dime due to purely physical causes. This helps me understand gnc/genderflluid people better (I’m cis.)

    • politeyeti said:

      Sexuality and gender are very different! Sexuality is who you’re into (if anyone), gender is who you are. Nb and gnc people can have literally any sexuality.

      • True, but both gender and sexuality are linked to the bodies we inhabit and the circumstances around us. There are people who identify as men, but after seeking treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome, begin to identify as women.

      • I agree with that! I apologize that my first comment was poorly written. I meant that the commenter helped me to understand how genderfluidity (sp?) can work.

  21. Chiming in as another asexual person saying, I accept you 🙂 Both as you are, and as you were; neither is “fake”.

    Can I just throw something out there? I have an anxiety disorder and vaginismus (basically I can’t use a tampon or insert things into my vagina because it’s incredibly painful). I figured out that some people are asexual pretty early, around age 13, just by Googling and stuff, and privately thought of myself as asexual for a long time before I came out. But I also somewhat went back-and-forth. I mean, was I a late bloomer? Was my anxiety eliminating my sex drive? If I got treatment for the vaginismus, would I suddenly have a sex drive?

    And eventually, I was like: who cares? I’m probably never going to pursue treatment for my vaginismus, and I’m managing the worst parts of my anxiety problems, so, you know. Maybe I will change someday; maybe I could even try to change on purpose. That doesn’t mean that I, right now, am asexual. I’m not lying to anyone. And neither were you.

    • Dia said:

      I hope this isn’t too off topic but I wanted to say that reading “I’m probably never going to pursue treatment for my vaginismus” is very validating to me, as someone with vaginismus who has felt pressured (not by my partner thankfully) to get treatment when I’d rather focus on other sexual health things first.

      • @Dia — not at all! Solidarity fist bump 😀

      • ruinousillusion said:

        You are the number-one world expert on you. You know best what’s most important to you, and can integrate an outsider’s expert or inexpert opinion with your knowledge.

        Someone else can tell you what would be most important to them if they were in your situation, and you can consider that input if you want, but at the end of the day they’re not you. They’re never going to be you. They can never be as well-informed as you are about decisions you make. If other sexual health things are more important to you than the vaginismus, then the world expert on you has said that for you those things are more important.

        I’m trying to be supportive but I’m not sure I’m coming across very well 🙂 I’ve had some odd times in mental and endocrinological health where doctors have tried to tell me that I should be trying to work on the issue that is their pet issue instead of the one I went to them to treat, and whether I go along with them or not I have always eventually had to replace them for my care. Someone who wants to dictate your priorities is never going to be as helpful as someone who tells you what they’re able and willing and recommending to do but still lets you decide what’s most important to you.

        Different people care about and are willing to put up with different things, that’s why two identical patients with identical issues could end up on different treatment paths. There’s at least one thing I’m electing not to treat right now because the actual issue is so minor to me that I don’t feel like it’s worth the side-effects risks, and my current doctor shrugged and said I should let him know if I change my mind. He hasn’t brought it up since, because I’m the one who deals with the risks and symptoms and potential benefits so I’m the one who gets to make that decision.

        I guess this was a long way of saying “Your body, your choice” in this and in so many other things. I hope whatever you decide goes well

  22. icewindgale said:

    Dear ex-Ace,

    I know I’m not one of those friends you’ve cultivated a relationship with, but I am an asexual who spent almost a decade trying to traumatize myself into not being (no dice, what a shock!). Any friend worth their salt will celebrate that you’ve taken a step to improve your health, and will continue to love you regardless of how your orientation evolves. Maybe the ace community won’t be the best outlet with which to navigate your newfound desires, but just as Mx. Trees said above, your feelings are valid, your experiences are valid, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    All the best, and I hope your friends shock you with how accepting and supportive they are!

  23. Hey! I just want to say, LW, that you’re not alone and the same thing actually happened to me, EXCEPT, for me it was that I’d not had good relationship experiences as a teen and was afraid of sex/intimacy. I then got into a relationship that was pretty good in most ways, as in my boyfriend was very understanding of the fact that I “was” asexual. Funnily enough, I soon started feeling sexually attracted to him. So, I thought I was demisexual, and began to identify as such.

    Welp. I’m not demi. We broke up about a month ago now. I met someone on Tinder and we’ve been trying to figure out hooking up, etc. (Never actually “done it” due to some issues with pain, sorry if that’s TMI… but now I’m trying to figure that out because strangely enough I have needs and I want to.) I’m really attracted to him and he makes me weak at the knees although we are just in a casual thing and I don’t see it going anywhere else. And he’s not the only one, either!! I’m really, really picky but I’ve definitely felt that attraction to others, too. It’s so weird!!! I must investigate more! I must figure out how to have the sex without pain and have all the sex! It’s fucking strange and also completely wonderful!

    Anyways, I kind of drifted away from the ace community. As I slowly underwent the transition, so to speak, from ace to non-ace, I found myself relating less to those on AVEN and whatnot. It took me quite a few months, and I think I still have some ways to go as hooking up makes me mildly nervous, but I’m working on that because, well, I want to. See the whole aforementioned needs thing. It’s a strong urge.

    Anywho. Your friends should understand, honestly, and if they don’t then that sucks. I also went through the same guilt that you did because, well… I did grow out of it. I’m so glad I did, though. I hated “being” ace. I hated not being “normal” (aka allosexual). It was awful. I’m still rooting for other people who are actually ace, for them to speak out and be heard, because while, yes, some of us do “grow out of it” for whatever reason, a lot of aces won’t. I think that if your friends take issue with you doing just that, you should tell them that you’ll still support them of course, and give them the voice and visibility that you need. Hell, people’s sexualities are fluid and things change all the time. So you changing isn’t necessarily a judgement on the ace community even though it was because you got hormone treatments.

    I’ll wrap up now, but yeah. Good luck out there! 🙂

  24. Nanani said:

    Oh LW. *soft feathers and purring cats*
    It’s OK. You didn’t do anything wrong and you didn’t betray anyone.
    Most of all, you are not and were never “fake”.

    Identities change and sexuality are fluid. It’s really OK.

    Just wanted to provide some comfort and reassurance
    – An Ace Bird

  25. megpie71 said:

    Dear No Longer Ace: In a way, I feel for you – I’ve had the exact reverse effect from a few medications I was on (I had a strong sex drive in my late twenties and early thirties, but then I went on SSRI-type anti-depressants, and they effectively killed my libido stone dead, to the point where I’d be describing myself as largely asexual now). It’s hard to lose a part of you that feels so very personal, and so very defining, and realise it’s the result of a few changes in mental chemistry. However, one of the things I’ve taken comfort from is the wisdom (from the ace community, strangely enough) that sexual drive levels aren’t fixed across our lifetime, and that we’re still people, no matter how much or how little drive toward sex and reproduction we feel.

    The thing to take away from this is while your sexual feelings and urges (or lack thereof) are a part of you, they are not the whole of your identity. You are still you, even when you’re feeling horny. You were still you when you weren’t experiencing sexual desire at all. Your asexuality wasn’t “false”, even if it wasn’t permanent. Temporary is not the same as artificial, or fake. You may find over the years your levels of sexual desire fluctuate, and you wind up identifying as either celibate or ace once more. You’ll still be you.

    Ideally speaking, your friends like you for all of you, rather than just a single aspect.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      This.

  26. Ellie said:

    Oh my god, this is exactly what I needed to read. I also identified as asexual, from my teens to my late twenties. Then I met my husband, and…well, we have sex.

    I’m still not sure what that makes me, since I could totally live without sex, and I don’t feel attracted to anyone else, but I do enjoy it with my husband. But “you just haven’t met the right person yet” is another common way to dismiss asexuality. So I’ve been struggling with some of the same guilty feelings.

    Hang in there, letter writer. You’re not letting anyone down by being yourself.

    • Myrin said:

      I don’t know if your “I’m not sure what that makes me” is more of a rhetorical question or if you are actually open to “suggestions” – if the former, please just ignore this, but if the latter: you might like the labels of “demisexual” or “grey-sexual”. I personally am very firmly the latter at the moment – I do experience instant sexual attraction but extremely rarely and I could well go the rest of my life without ever having sex; I’ve also never had sex so I’m not sure how I’d (re-)act if that opportunity suddenly presented itself but for the moment, I’m content with how things are. Demisexual is more that you don’t feel instantly romantically or sexually attracted to someone but do develop that once you get to know a person, are comfortable with them, have grown closer to them, etc. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you’re interested in looking into it more. 😀

      • Lirael said:

        Seconding Myrin that demisexuality or grey-asexuality might be something for you to look into, if you’re seeking an answer to the question of “what that makes me.” I’m demisexual and your experience pretty much describes me: I enjoy sex with my spouse, but am not attracted to anyone else. Just FWIW.

  27. Biancasnoozes said:

    I did not really come to the realization that I was asexual until my 30s, even though I had never had any desire to date or have sex. I actually did not realize it was “a thing” you could be. I have never even met someone who was asexual before, so I can’t comment on what the community is like and what their reaction would be. But I can tell you that in my lifetime, the most hurtful part of not being ” believed” (because of course I heard that I was just not grown up, or I was just a coward, or I was a closet lesbian, etc.) was the notion that others thought they could know what I feel better than me; that the fact that I said “I feel this way” was not good enough, and that I was not allowed to be the authority on myself. LW, you are the authority on yourself, and I hope that your friends can recognize that their honoring that in you is as important as anyone honoring their own authority on themselves.

  28. Elektra said:

    Oh, LW, I teared up when I read your post. I’m a woman who used to be attracted primarily to women. But I settled down with a male partner, and these days I’d say I’m primarily attracted to men (though not exclusively). I know that’s very different from going from being asexual to sexual. At the same time, I really relate to the feelings you described in your post: fear of failing your community, fear of fulfilling harmful stereotypes, fear of being abandoned by a community that has been a defining part of your identity. It is hard, and in many ways heartbreaking.

    The Captain’s advice is so spot on that it’s difficult for me to add to it. The main thing is to trust yourself, take the time you need to process this big life change and know that you aren’t letting anyone down by being the person who you are. Your sexuality is not a referendum on anyone else’s asexuality. Your experience is not a comment on anyone else’s experience. Any ‘friend’ who takes it as one is not the sort of person you need in your life, however you identify.

    The other thing I wanted to say is, it is hard when your relationship to a community changes, but good things do come of it. It still hurts me that I no longer feel part of the queer community, in some ways it feels like a piece of me is missing. But on the other hand I feel like I’m a better ally because of my past experiences, and that’s really good.

    I can’t say how it’s going to be for you and how you’ll continue to relate to the ace community, in part that might depend on the attitudes of those around you. But it’s pretty clear from what you wrote that you care about ace people and ensuring that their identity is seen as legitimate and real. Whether you’re sexual or not, you’re going to be a force for good.

  29. VG said:

    I think people want sexuality to be something concrete and easy to define, and for a lot of us it just…isn’t. As a teenager and young adult, I liked reading about fictional sex and dating, but I was never attracted to anyone I knew or interested in having sex with an actual real-life person. From my early 20s to my mid-30s I was in a long-term relationship that led to marriage, and within that context I was attracted to my partner and enjoyed sex with them, but when the relationship ended several years ago, it was like a switch flipped and I went back to my former total lack of interest. This is super confusing to people I know who first met me when I was married, because to them my “normal” state is sexual/in a relationship, so I must secretly be miserable and starved for sex. But I’ve come to believe that I’ve always been asexual and my relationship was an anomaly (a good, happy anomaly, but an anomaly) and I know that I’m the only true authority on how I feel and what’s right for me. You are too, LW.

  30. ashbet said:

    I don’t know whether this framing might work for you:

    I was genuinely asexual, and that was a valid identity. Now, as a side effect from necessary medical treatment, I am having sexual feelings and my orientation and identity may be changing. That doesn’t mean that I used to be “broken” and now I’m “fixed,” or that my asexuality was in any way “fake” — my feelings then were as valid as my feelings are now.

    Honestly, making it clear that you don’t think that medical treatment is a cure-all for every ace person (and that ace people don’t NEED to be “cured,” whether or not it’s possible to change any given individual’s drive/orientation with medical treatment), you should hopefully be okay.

    I agree that repeatedly asking ace people whether or not they’ve sought to change/”fix” their orientation medically is a toxic trope, and I understand that you don’t want to inadvertently play into it.

    You will probably run into some people who can’t help projecting that trope over your words, and it’s possible that you may lose a few friends or find some spaces unwelcome. I hope, however, that the overall community is responsive to sexual fluidity, and that they don’t treat your own personal medical status as a referendum on their lives and choices.

    Wishing you happiness, and I hope that you are embraced by good and trusted friends who love you just the way you are ❤

  31. Clarry said:

    I’m trying to figure out what sort of friends would give up on a friendship because their friend developed a sex drive. They had nothing else in common with you? All the love was contingent on being asexual together? I suppose it’s possible. After all, I’m cis and straight. At one time when I was single, I had a small circle of friends who were also all single. A frequent topic of conversation was dating including difficult dates, disastrous dates, funny dates. When I did settle down with one person and stopped dating, one– but not all– in that circle of friends pretty much dropped me. (I say “pretty much” because it was more complicated and messy.) The point being that the others did not drop me. We found other things to talk about, other ways to support each other and be glad in each others’ company. If someone in your online and in-person communities should have a problem with your no-longer-ace reality, it’s on them, not you.

  32. Elder Grantaire said:

    I identify with this letter so much, in so many ways.

    First of all, I just want to say that I firmly believe that just because you might move past a label or way of describing yourself doesn’t retroactively make that label invalid. I identified as a lesbian for a long time. It was a vital part of who I was. I am now a trans man three years into my transition, but I don’t think that I was wrong or lying to myself when I called myself a lesbian. That is who I was then, and this is who I am now, and I don’t see any reason why those two parts of my life can’t co-exist without one erasing the other. I understand why many trans people reject the narrative of ‘I used to be a [x]’, and I do bristle when cis people use that to describe us, but for me personally, ‘I used to be a lesbian’ feels like a perfectly true statement.

    What I’m saying is, I don’t see any reason why this change in your life should retroactively erase your asexuality. You might no longer identify that way, but you still lived that experience for years, made friends through it, and were part of a community. This change does not erase all of that or make it any less real and valid.

    Second of all, I relate so hard to the fear of talking about lived experiences that play into damaging stereotypes. I was in an abusive relationship with a trans woman. She figured out early on that I was petrified of talking over her when she talked about transmisogyny, so she managed to twist every single disagreement we had so that it was somehow about transmisogyny, because she knew that as soon as the subject came up I would immediately defer to her point of view. When I wanted to leave the relationship, that somehow also became about how I was a secret TERF.

    It was so, so hard to extricate myself from that situation, because the thought of her thinking of me as a transmisogynist was unbearable to me and she made it clear there was no way I could leave without her thinking that. When I did, I had absolutely no idea how to talk about my experience. Surely by telling my story I was playing into the horrible rhetoric about trans women being manipulative or abusive? Wouldn’t my story just give fuel to people who say that trans women use accusations of transmisogyny to deflect criticism?

    No. It would not, because it is my story, and it happened to me. Sometimes things happen in real life that seem to reflect ugly stereotypes. I am not telling my story to accuse all trans women of being abusers, I am telling my story because it happened to me, and it had an impact on me, and I deserve to be able to talk about it just as much as any other abuse survivor. It is my responsibility to not come away from this experience thinking that all trans women are like her, but it is not my responsibility to be silent about it because I’m afraid of how other people might interpret it.

    Your story might bear a surface-level resemblance to some of the offensive rhetoric that people use against asexuals, but you know it’s more complicated than that. If people tell you you are betraying the asexual community, they are not listening. Your story doesn’t need to have a moral or a hidden meaning. It’s just your story. You have a right to tell it.

    • Manattee said:

      Hey, just wanted to say that something similar happened to me (abused by someone who happened to be on the trans feminine spectrum, who sometimes used this as an excuse for abusive behaviour and used accusations of transmisogyny to silence me when I tried to stand up for myself, and ultimately leave). I really strongly empathize with the difficulty of talking about it, both because that was programmed in with the abuse and because I support trans women’s rights and don’t want to say anything that could cause harm to a minority group. What I usually do if talking about it, is to leave out trans-specific details unless I know the person I’m talking to very well and know they will understand the full context, e.g. ‘ex-partner would accuse me of being abusive/prejudiced [rather than transmisogynistic] any time I tried to stand up to mistreatment’. It also helps to recognise (and say to people if they’re not getting it) that if this abuser hadn’t been trans, they would have found some other way to play the victim and put you at fault when it suited them.

      • Jackalope said:

        I know many people refer to Gavin de Becker’s “Gift of Fear” here, and this is a solid example of typecasting (for those who haven’t read it, the idea is that someone says something about you that’s an insult to try and get you to act the way they want you to so you can try to disprove the insult). Framing it that way has been helpful to me in terms of figuring out how to deal with it. And as you point out, Manattee, someone who uses this method will always find *some* way to use it, whatever they might have that can make you squirm and respond like they want to.

        • Elder Grantaire said:

          Oh god Jackalope, that rings so true…not just about the TERF thing, but also about how when I expressed over and over that I wanted to leave, she would say ‘Sure, of course you can leave! It’ll just mean that you’re a really selfish person. I’m not stopping you, though!’

          So naturally I was stuck, because I couldn’t stand the thought of her thinking I was selfish. It dragged on for weeks while I scrambled for a way out that wouldn’t leave her thinking badly of me, until I was finally like ‘I don’t care anymore, nothing can possibly be worse than this.’ I am not proud of how I broke up with her but whenever I feel guilty about it I remind myself that I tried to do it better many, many times and she would not let me.

          • Your ex telling you that only a bad person would break up with them is a remarkably nasty piece of gaslighting.

  33. Alice said:

    As a fellow ace, my reaction is totally different. Something along the lines of, “You’ve been to the other side! Tell us what it’s like in words that we can understand!” I think it would be awesome to have your perspective in an ace group, and I hope your friends find it as fascinating as I do.

    • Naphtali said:

      Yes, this!. LW, can you please describe your invisible elephant for those of us who still don’t know what the hell it looks like? You’re now in a unique position to help the rest of us out!

      Also, chiming in as yet another ace with “you are okay and you aren’t letting us down.” I, for one, am happy for you!

      • TheStoryGirl said:

        I know you asked the LW directly, but as someone who had a similar experience, do you want my description of having sexual interest gradually “come online?”

  34. flynnthecat1 said:

    Well, this is timely… 95% asexual here, but I’ve recently discovered some medical stuff that almost definitely may have led to that (medical issues leading to dietary deficiency of tryptophan – which caused some MAJOR issues, lack of sex drive hormones just being one minor possible one) and ADHD (hey you’re pretty attr-sorry, bored now/constant distraction is not a good mindset for getting ‘in the mood’).

    So now I’m getting used to the idea that, just as I finally got used to being basically asexual and comfortable with that and sure I wasn’t just ‘doing attraction wrong’, maybe I can ‘fix’ it. Or it will fix itself without me. Or maybe it won’t. And it might take years for my body to readjust so it might be a nice gradual change, or it might be a huge thing that shakes up my life. So I don’t know if I should be preparing for it.

    Just not… getting the excitement over people/going stupid for them is not something I am eager to change, but also I would like to be able to get to the point of a relationship and I would like to experience actual attraction (though this may be the ADHD OOOH NEW SHINY THING in action and I’ll get bored once I’m used to it). And I always feel kinda left out/invisible around most of my social groups (very heavy on the queer, or just people I’d like to point out that ‘hey, not everyone is straight’ too) because I’m just Not Interested so as far as they can tell, I’m basically straight and there’s no natural way to go ‘oh yeah I am TOTALLY NOT ATTRACTED’ – whereas being able to comment on how hot X/Y is automatically signals interest in that person/gender/whatever. So it would be nice to go ‘yes, I too enjoy the rush of attraction when interacting with persons X and Y, I too am a fellow queer person who can bond over our experience’.

    I don’t know if it will change, and if it does, if it will make a difference or go anywhere, and I don’t know if I WANT it to change; it just seems like one more messy risky thing that could go wrong/be pointless and frustrating. Or it could be awesome.

    And it’s just… argh. I feel like asexual > sexual is a much bigger identity upheaval (disclaimer for external phobias and social issues) than just realising you like more/different people than you assumed you should/did. You’re going from not doing something at all to suddenly having to figure out how to fit it into your life, rather than going ‘okay, I do the same thing but with different people’. OTOH you’re not having to break out the ‘which side of the binary do I fit into’, you’re stepping from outside the box to into it, so there’s less ‘OMG people have variable sexualities’ sticker shock.

  35. Dear LW:

    You are not responsible for your friends’ feelings about your sexuality.

    For years you were asexual. Now you are sexual. You’re allowed to tell people how this happened. You’re also allowed to leave the details out and say simply that you’ve changed.

    You’re even allowed to shut up entirely.

    Meanwhile, you weren’t a fake.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      (Allosexual is the alternative to asexual, for the record, not just “sexual”.)

      • Thank you!

  36. TheStoryGirl said:

    I am also a former happily asexual person who unexpectedly became sexual as a result of an unrelated medical treatment, but my experience of asexuality doesn’t necessarily reflect the popular narrative.

    I now hugely regret accepting my own asexuality.

    From childhood to 34 years old, I was as asexual as it gets: Never dated, never physically attracted to anyone in-person, virgin at 34, etc. As a teenager, I was perfectly level-headed, spared from “raging hormones” or any temptation. I was totally content being asexual. If anything, I was smugly convinced I’d dodged a bullet plaguing the rest of humanity, because I didn’t have to feel an annoying sexual urge or have the kinds of romantic experiences that seemed to be torturing my friends. I thought I’d achieved a Vulcan-like sex-free serenity and was incredibly dismissive of the possibility that my asexuality wasn’t a core part of my personality.

    Then, four years ago, I had a surgery that profoundly changed a lot of things about my body, and, as I was recovering for a year, well…my mind just changed, all by itself. I gradually went from asexual to sexual, over about six months. That was it. For me, it was like being in the movie Pleasantville; my bland, calm, grayscale life was shifting to fascinating, passionate color, and I was connecting with people on levels that I’d never know existed.

    First I was confused, then I went into denial. I didn’t want to be wrong about who I was, much acknowledge that my medical condition had shaped my personality and many critical life choices. But…the fact is…my medical condition *had* profoundly impact my personality and many critical life choices. It had what I now see were profound and awful effects. Because of my medical condition, I missed out on having a vibrant, sexual development in my youth, on decades of romance, intimate relationships, and sex, and on having biological children.

    So for me, personally? I wish there had been barriers to prevent me from uncritically accepting it as my identity. My Christian Science parents, negligent doctors, and well-meaning asexuality advocates and allies created a perfect environment in which my fundamentally incorrect beliefs about myself went unchallenged my entire life. I was allowed to be very wrong about the objective truths of my body and my identity, and it’s profoundly hurting me now.

    That’s not okay with me today.

    I want to be respectful of those who identify as asexual, but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to suffer the kind of loss that I have. I’m hoping that, by sharing my story, it might motivate people to have medical evaluations before making any assumptions or major life choices.

    • Clarry said:

      The Story Girl–
      What was the surgery?
      What would you have preferred the negligent doctors to have done?
      What would removing the barriers that were allowing you to uncritically accept asexuality as your identity have looked like?
      What should the medical evaluation have included?
      Sorry to ask such personal questions, but I’ve googled and can’t find the information on any medical site.

      • piny1 said:

        The Story Girl has already shared a really personal story, and can respond to this on her own terms, but…this seems a bit intrusive.

        I hope I’m not Olivia Bensoning this a bit, but real talk: I had Hashimoto’s, and the trough side of that felt like someone had reached down and switched me off down there. I was already an adult, and it was not part of my normal, and it made me very unhappy, and I was alienated from my body, and I raised it as an issue with doctors as a symptom that I considered really urgent and significant. I *never* received *any* response besides outright dismissal – “I suddenly have zero anything down there” was treated as a “fuzzy” symptom, just like “I can’t remember where my office is,” and “I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks.” And lo and behold, once I received standard treatment for thyroid dysfunction, all of these fuzzy symptoms immediately disappeared.

        “I spent three/five/twenty years not getting heard by my doctor, and meanwhile my hair fell out and I stopped getting my period and and and and” is, anecdotally, a fairly common first act of thyroid dysfunction.

        I’m mostly frank about all this – mostly so that other people in my situation are aware of this pretty common medical problem, and so that patients don’t feel silly for connecting libido issues with an endocrine disorder that affects your hormone cycles and moods. But if I posted something about it and someone started interrogating me, I’d feel a little bit…hassled, I guess.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        Can’t you just believe that Story Girl is hurting, that she’s trying to come to terms with the change in her life, without her revealing her history to World+dog just because her story might not fit a narrative that you’re personally comfortable with?

        Unfortunately, given the gender biases and misogyny that still pervade medicine, keep pushing the myth that AFAB people aren’t supposed to experience sexual desire (outside of monogamous heterosexual pairings) Story Girl has had a not uncommon experience. It works the other way too, guys are seen as deficient if their libido is seen as too low.

        Endocrine disorders, undiagnosed tumours, chromosomal variations, and a whole host of other issues, can affect sexual desire and gender identity and presentation. Humans are complicated creatures; to the point that there are individuals out there with two distinct DNA profiles, or have chromosomes that you’d think were contradicted by their external presentation. .

        • TheStoryGirl said:

          I’m plus-1ing all of this.

          I very much think that gender bias, misogyny, and general laziness and/or penny-pinching contributed to my doctors not investigating my total lack of libido. While there was a variety of reactions among my doctors, none of them were scientifically (and to my mind, professionally) investigative:

          There was one who was delighted to hear that I’d never had sex:

          “Great, we don’t have to do an STD panel, then! No need for a pap-smear, either! Let’s get you out of here!”

          There was another who actually virgin-shamed me:

          Doc: “Do you currently have a sexual partner?”
          Me: “No. I’ve never had sex.”
          Doc: “What, NEVER?”
          Me: “That’s right.”
          Doc: “And you’re 31?”
          Me: (uncomfortably not making eye contact) “Yes.”
          Doc: “And you’ve REALLY never had sex? Not even once, to try it out?”
          Me: “No.”
          Doc: “Wow! Why is that?”
          Me: “I don’t know. I just never wanted to have sex, so I didn’t. I’m not sexually attracted to people.”
          Doc: “Really?!”
          Me: “Really. I’ve been this way all my life. I’m asexual.”
          Doc: “Well…okay….(subject change to discussing my irregular periods and facial hair, which you’d think might have been relevant…?)”

          Then there was general indifference:

          Doc: “Do you currently have a sexual partner?”
          Me: “No, I’m asexual. I’ve never had sex.”
          Doc: “Okay then…(subject change)”

          Factor in that sexual dysfunction (especially in females) is under-researched and usually assumed to be an emotional and/or environmental issue, and you can see why it isn’t deeply investigated by primary care doctors. Even when sexual dysfunction might be the only obvious symptom signaling other physical issues, it often goes unaddressed for many years.

      • JenniferP said:

        These are VERY personal questions, wow!!!

        • Clarry said:

          Please accept my apologies. I see now that I overstepped. I was hoping to get some information on how the medical world could better help patients.

          • TheStoryGirl said:

            Hi Clarry!

            In my particular case, no apologies are necessary. I’m more than happy to answer your questions, especially if you think they will be helpful in a medical setting. I have, ahem, A Lot Of Thoughts On That Subject.

            I’ve always been completely transparent on the details of my surgery and personal history with friends, on social media ,and even on dating websites (against the advice of friends who feel that my forthrightness might be unattractively undercutting my presentation). I’ll cheerfully tell anyone anything they want to know, from recommending my surgeon and clinic, to what the recovery has been like, to what life is like today. I don’t even care if that information is helping someone or merely satisfying idle curiosity, and I don’t care if a listener judges me positively or negatively based on that information. If someone wants to know, I want to give them the information.

            I was only vague about my history because the Captain has a policy against discussing obesity and weight loss, and my history and surgery involve those subjects.

            If the Captain doesn’t mind my discussing my weight loss in a non-specific way (no numbers or diet advice), I’m happy to talk about the surprising results that came out of it, many of which aren’t discussed even in weight loss surgery communities.

          • JenniferP said:

            I think this is a conversation for the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com. Thank you!

      • …I… did you seriously respond to an incredibly personal story with “I couldn’t Google your personal medical history, tell me what kind of surgery you had and give me a laundry list of standards to which medical professionals and test should be held”?

    • Thank you for telling this story.
      I’m sad that a perfect horror storm of events and attitudes combined in such a bad way.

      • The Story Girl said:

        Thank you! Jedi-hugs, if you don’t mind taking them!

    • anon for this because yikes said:

      Okay, so if you once identified as asexual then you know, actually know, that aces are constantly told that they need medical evaluations because they’re “broken”, right? You are literally saying the exact same acephobic rhetoric that is prominent among every doctor and acephobe. You must also realize that your (sad, yes) experience is by and far in the smallest minority for aces too? That most aces have no support network or anyone consoling them or helping them realize this?
      Like what happened to you is sad yeah, but this sounds so much like every acephobe in the community it’s ridiculous! Former asexual or not it is no excuse for this kind of rhetoric. “My bland greyscale life was shifting into fascinating passionate color”. What??? I understand this is a personal thing but the implications behind this sentence and how asexuals are bland, smug, and lifeless is very bad lol

      • piny1 said:

        She is allowed to describe her own feelings about her own internal and subjective experience of her sexuality in terms that seem most accurate to her. She is allowed to have negative feelings about her lack of sexual desire and interest, even extremely negative feelings. Just as I am allowed to talk about how my own sunk libido felt horrible to me, and use terms like dead and sad and demoralizing and unnatural and unbearable. You do not feel unhappy with your status quo. She was not being unhappy – or much more happy – at you, and it is frankly ludicrous that you think she should downplay her own feelings of joy and self-fulfillment because her happiness does not originate from the same material conditions as yours.

        • caraway said:

          Belatedly, and I’d like to mention that you’ve been rocking this comment section, @piny1,

          For sure she’s allowed to describe her experience, and to put it out there as “this is a possible thing that somebody else could experience.” And I think she’s being careful not to actually cross the line to proselytizing, “asexual people ought to have their medical stuff checked.” But the presentation reads pretty near that line, to me. And I think the above commenter is responding to that normative tinge, not to her story-in-itself.

          The “bland, grayscale” bit in particular seems like some other dimensions of life changes may be wrapped up along with the sexuality change, because not all asexual people experience it as bland and grayscale. And that’s even from ones like the LW and others who can look back in hindsight. Doesn’t invalidate TSG’s experience, but does make it perhaps applicable as advice only to those who have similar other dimensions wrapped up.

          When we have: “So for me, personally? I wish there had been barriers to prevent me from uncritically accepting it as my identity.”
          It is explicitly not saying anybody else should be given barriers against accepting asexuality. But… as a wish, what is it wishing then, does it not apply to a hypothetical where the same person had been ‘really’ ace? I don’t think it was written as an “I’m not saying, I’m just saying…” maneuver, but I can see reading it that way.

          Maybe there is something about TSG’s history that would say “those asexual people who have this specific characteristic, I think they should get X checked out.” But if it is not targeted, if it’s all asexual people, then I’m not convinced they benefit from hearing more untargeted advice to see a doctor, they’ve heard it before.

          • TheStoryGirl said:

            Caraway, I’d say there’s a rather significant amount of potentially counterproductive support in the asexual community for those who wish to ignore advice to seek medical attention. Heck, in the comments field *here* we’ve seen wildly speculative claims that asexual-identifying individuals with underlying medical conditions are a vast minority of the asexual community, when we in fact have *no idea whatsoever* if that is actually true. Even discussing individual stories anecdotally is challenging, when people like the LW, are anxious about “confirming” a trope that’s offensive to the asexual community.

            And then there’s the challenge that you mentioned about individual experience not crossing all dimensions. There are many different conditions that present asexuality in subtly different ways, and I’m not saying that all asexuals are having a bland, grayscale existence. I’m only saying that in my particular case, my hormone levels dramatically impacted how I experienced emotion. My mood when my female sex hormones were minimal really *was* a Vulcan-like serenity, with very few highs and even fewer lows. My contentment really *was* like the characters in first act of Pleasantville – there wasn’t much that was “stirring me up.”

            Ultimately, it’s not really all that different from how medications can effect the intensity of an individual’s moods (some of them are *designed* to do just that!). I just had *no idea* that fully functioning female hormones could effect my personal experience of life as much as they have! In that, it feels like I have a lot more in common with some transwomen who’ve taken hormone therapies and written about their own before-and-after experiences. Hormones, like medications, can impact experience. Not for everyone, but for some.

            As for my personal wish that *someone* had been more insistent that I receive medical attention sooner, I’m mostly pointing at my parents and doctors.

            First, I was raised as a Christian Scientist. If you’re not familiar, Christian Science is a faith-healing religion that literally denies that “sin, sickness, and death” exist within the God’s omnipotent perfection. “Healing” comes from meditating on the perfection of God and “denying capital-E ‘Error'” until the bad thing ceases to be. Functionally, that mostly looks like lying still until the pain goes away. In my family, as with most Christian Scientists, we would not seek medical attention unless we were so gravely sick or injured as to be incapable of concentrating on prayer.

            So I never saw any doctors as a child, was sent to the library during health class, wasn’t allowed to watch commercials for Tylenol, etc. I saw my first doctor at 16 and swallowed my first pill at 17. Formal medicine was a vast, vague, and totally foreign institution that had nothing to do with me, personally. Even as I gradually moved away from Christian Science into atheism in my twenties, the innate feeling of, “medical attention isn’t a Thing That I Do” remained. *Today* I still have to warn doctors that I have random gaps in my knowledge base about health and bodies.

            This was the *perfect* environment in which to have signs that I wasn’t experiencing a “normal” puberty or young adulthood completely ignored. Then, as I mentioned in other comments, the doctors I haphazardly saw as an adult were uniformly disinterested in my libido and what not having one might be signaling. My parents initially failed me, and, later on, so did my doctors.

            And, when I went to the internet to find explanations, I found the asexual community, which provided acceptance, affirmation, and an identity. And that’s great, except that, like Christian Science and the few doctors I saw, the asexual community provided a space in which to feel confident that there was no need to aggressively advocate for the medical explanation that I actually did need.

            Again, it was a perfect shitty storm, and other people are going to have vastly different experiences. I went into more detail here to be more targeted for anyone who shares noteworthy similarities (medical neglect, mostly).

  37. Misscontradiction said:

    I think that it’s good for people to have someone that has truely been on both sides of the equation. You have a uniqe ability to be able to explain what it’s like to both sexual and asexual people, to help them understand. You are still an ambassador, but now you can be one for both sides. As well, although some asexuals are offended at the idea they need “fixing” – because it really is horrible to go through life feeling like that, it is a reality that some people, like yourself, might have medical issues. So if you can help those who ARE seeking medical options, to find answers, that is a blessing too. I don’t see you pushing medical “fixes” on people who aren’t interested, or promoting that asexual is “fake” because you are an open minded person who understands where people are coming from.

  38. pedestrian said:

    I have the impression from reading narratives of asexual people online that many identify as a member of a marginalized group because of being asexual. If you no longer identify that way, are you concerned that members of your community will see you as having gone from a member of the marginalized group to a member of the dominant group’?

  39. wixen_poetic said:

    I identified as bi for a good 10 years before I figured out that lesbian was in fact a better fit. I definitely struggled a bit with the idea that I was reinforcing the stereotype of bisexuality as a pit stop, but that wasn’t what I did. It was my truth for years, and then it wasn’t. The same is true for you. Asexuality was your truth, and circumstances have changed that. That doesn’t make you fake or a traitor.

  40. Skada said:

    LW…I wanted to highlight this part of the Captain’s advice:

    “If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.”

    Please, please, please, if you can do this, do this.

    It’s hard enough dealing with massive changes to the core of your person on its own. It’s even harder when you’re faced with a hostile or potentially hostile peer group.

    What you are describing is one of the biggest reasons people fight change: that they are afraid they will be rejected and cast out by their social group. The fear of rejection is so terrifying that people stuff themselves down into who they’ve been for years, because the possibility of losing one’s entire social circle is so great. It’s why in years past (and still in some places) coming out as gay or trans is such a big deal. On a lesser level, Google “self-lock” if you want more examples.

    You might lose your entire social circle. You might not. You might be surprised at how people react (especially since it sounds like you were indeed very, very ill). But if you CAN have somebody to help you deal with this, get them on your side.

  41. Fish said:

    I’m also ace, though struggling with “what does it mean that I’ve developed a libido since starting hormones?”. I’m settling on “I’m ace with a libido”, since I’m still lacking some parts of sexual attraction, but, I empathise with how uncertain it can feel to have this change out from underneath you.

    Sexuality changes over time, and you were ace then, and aren’t now, and both can be true. In some ace communities, you’ll still be welcome. In others, you won’t. I don’t know which type you’re from. It sucks. I’m sorry. If it helps at all to have someone who is ace tell you that you’re valid and allowed to do this thing that you don’t have any choice about and is necessary for your health, well, you’re valid and allowed. People change. You’re allowed to be a person.

  42. Deep River said:

    I am going through a similar situation having identified as lesbian for several years and now experiencing curiosity about men. I know comments on this blog are heavily moderated, so all that’s getting through here is you do what’s right for you and don’t worry about the haters/the people who value their ideas about how the world should work over your actual human experience.

    Of course I know that you do what’s right for you is the right answer. I want to know the real answer, though. I actually wish Captain Awkward had left in the shitty comments, if there were any, because knowing how shitty people can be is information that you need to make an informed decision about what you have to do to have a liveable life. You have to honestly acknowledge who is in power and what they have the power to do if they feel crossed by you in some way — and you may ultimately decide to challenge them anyway if you feel that it’s worth it, but you at least know what you are getting into.

    Some commenters have touched on the dynamics of being perceived as abandoning a marginalized group for the oppressor, and I think that is the bigger issue than whether it is specifically possible for anyone’s sexual or gender identity to be fluid in whatever way. That is definitely a tension that exists for someone going from gay to straight or asexual to sexual that isn’t there for someone going from straight to gay or sexual to asexual.

    Another tension: what about allies? What about allies who are sooo invested in what good allies they are, key point being how good they are, to their sexual minority friend or relative who is now considering a sexual majority identity? Yikes.

  43. still anon for this because SUPER yikes said:

    Soooo there’s a lot of acephobic dialogue going on in the comments (surprise surprise) so as a reminder:

    Yes, there are people who gain a libido after medical treatment. No, that does not mean you have ANY right to question an asexual person if they have a medical condition or urge them to seek medical treatment. That is one of the oldest, cruelest things to say to asexual person. Don’t do it. If you personally are wondering if your asexuality is because of a medical condition, then you can do that yourself, don’t force it on others.

    Related: “conversion therapy” (ie: rape) is a thing that also happens to asexuals. Don’t pretend it doesn’t.

    Being (formerly) asexual does not mean you can’t be acephobic.

    And ultimately:

    Identifying as asexual and then no longer feeling that identification is perfectly valid and fine. Sexuality can change, people can change, everything is fluid. It’s only when you start preaching to others about how you got “fixed” that I take issue. Step it up. people.

    • piny1 said:

      So…As I said above, I had an untreated thyroid condition that first muted and then altogether removed my libido. It also had an effect on everything from my level of sensual interest in my body to my physical arousal to whether or not I could feel relaxed enough in my body to contemplate sex. Then I got a doctor who put me on the normal course of treatment for my thyroid condition, and it fixed my messed up sex drive. That is not an ace phobic framing.

      I had a medical problem, among its symptoms was sexual dysfunction, and I went to a doctor who, thank God, was willing to engage with that sexual dysfunction in a firmly medicalized context. Now I have a healthy body, and my sex drive has returned to levels that feel comfortable for me, and which accord with my body’s version of normal and healthy.

      It is not acephobic to frame any of this in those terms, or moreover to talk about this medical problem as a fairly common and highly gendered complaint. And while acephobic and conversion therapy are both real, so is sexual dysfunction and so are medical problems and treatments that can cause sexual dysfunction, and so are a number of extremely hostile and dismissive frameworks for processing a lack of sexual desire, comfort, and fulfillment. It is okay to talk about these issues as though they are pertinent, particularly since the LW turns out to have had a medical issue, and since she is now trying to figure out how best to incorporate her emerging sexuality into her sense of herself.

      • Anononanonanon said:

        Sure, except TheStoryGirl is explicitly calling for Ace people to get medically checked before identifying as Ace, which is a timeshifted version of *exactly the thing OP doesn’t want to do*.

        Anon above is pushing back against the equation of Aceness and sexual dysfunciton, and very rightly so.

        • piny1 said:

          I see. So you’re saying that LW and The Story Girl should not feel entitled to refer to themselves as formerly ace, and instead call themselves past sufferers of undiagnosed sexual dysfunction?

          • Anononanonanon said:

            Call yourselves anything you like, just please do others the same favour and stop saying ace people should pass a medical diagnostic test of REAL aceness vs medical aceness before -they- can identify themselves as ace.

          • piny1 said:

            Nope, sorry, you can’t simultaneously claim that The Story Girl’s story is not relevant to this discussion – and that it’s “equating aceness and sexual dysfunction” for her to represent her story as potentially relevant or common – and also say that you’re making no judgments on LW and The Story Girl’s claims to ace identity.

    • TheStoryGirl said:

      The reason laypeople and doctors engage in what you’re mislabeling as “acephobic rhetoric” is that sexual dysfunction masquerading as asexuality actually exists in objective reality.

      So yes, I had the common ace experience of laypeople (not doctors, unfortunately), telling me that I was “broken” and that I needed medical evaluations. I dismissed their observations and advice as acephobia, asexual erasure, and irrelevant to me.

      But I was wrong. My body *was* broken, and I *did* need medical evaluations and intervention.

      I was – *objectively* – wrong about my asexuality.

      And not only was I objectively wrong, but so was everyone in the asexual community who “supportively” said that I wasn’t broken and that I didn’t (or implied that I probably didn’t) need medical evaluations. While I am solely responsible for the personal decisions that I made, the ace community provided a space that made it easy for me to avoid the objective reality of my body.

      So I no longer agree with the common ace practice of criticizing conversations about the reality that some people’s bodies present sexual dysfunction as asexuality. I believe suppressing that information is irresponsible and damaging, as is minimizing the possibility that an individual asexual is experiencing sexual dysfunction by saying things like (in your comment directed to me above), “…You must also realize that your (sad, yes) experience is by and far in the smallest minority for aces too?”

      I do not realize any such thing. There are no large-scale longitudinal studies about asexuality that would support that claim. You are spreading what could potentially be dangerous misinformation implying there’s little to no risk in an ace individual assuming they do not have sexual dysfunction, or that they should not be worried that they’re experiencing symptoms of more dangerous conditions (like prolactinoma).

      I am not stating that every asexual person has a sexual dysfunction. I’m not even hazarding a guess at the percentages. it is a grossly understudied area and there is no hard evidence, only anecdotal reporting on a subject that is burdened by gender bias, misogyny, and shame.

      What I am stating – again – is that people should be informed about the full spectrum of the asexual experience (including anecdotes like mine), and they should rule out sexual dysfunction in a clinical setting before making any assumptions or life choices that could put their health or future at risk.

      And ideally, members of the asexual community would caution newcomers not to adopt asexuality as an identity without first comprehensively ruling out sexual dysfunction in a clinical setting. A basic warning is not “ridiculous,” or acephobia, and it is certainly not “cruel” – it’s exactly the opposite. In a community that has been *dramatically* underserved by the medical profession, it is only responsible to caution individuals who could be at risk. You’ve minimized my grief and emotional suffering, and I agree, it could have been worse. Sexual dysfunction sometimes signals that something else in the body is very wrong, or even life-threatening.

      For example, in his book, “Man Made,” Ken Baker details how an undiagnosed prolactin-secreting tumor dramatically unbalanced his hormones during puberty, which effected his physical health, energy, social life, and relationships in a very negative and painful ways, well into his late 20s. It wasn’t until a doctor seriously investigated Baker’s lack of libido that the brain tumor was discovered. If left untreated, it could have caused blindness or even killed him (while prolactinomas themselves are benign tumors, their impact on the local real estate in the body can cause things like clots and strokes).

      Asexual people might not want to focus on those kinds of narratives, or hear people like me say that they have regrets about how they practiced their asexuality. But these are experiences that people have, and that some asexual people might have in the future. Ken Baker likely would have died if his loved ones and his doctor had “respectfully” acknowledged him to be asexual. My doctors took my word for it, and I’m hurting today.

      I feel am “stepping up” by volunteering my asexual experience as a potential warning. Mine won’t be every asexual person’s experience – for their sake, I sincerely hope it isn’t anyone’s! – but I’m hoping it might serve as a cautionary tale about why people should advocate for clinical diagnosis of unusual medical conditions and be as informed as possible about their personal medical realities.

      • Anononanonanon said:

        You’re equating asexuality with sexual dysfunction. That’s harmful.
        Please consider reframing that part of your story.

    • Anononanonanon said:

      Yeah I agree with all of this.

      I get a very icky vibe from The Story Girl’s follow up comment, like “members of the asexual community would caution newcomers not to adopt asexuality as an identity without first comprehensively ruling out sexual dysfunction in a clinical setting”
      With all due respect, EFF THAT.

      That is exactly like telling a lesbian to sleep with a man to make sure she’s not REALLY straight before dating women.

      The scare story about the tumours is also stinky “scared straight” nonsense.

      I get that in the story and in the comment, there really was medical stuff going on that really affected sexuality, but the thing is, Asexuality IS NOT a symptom. Asexuality is not “sexual dysfunction”.
      I know women are often assumed not to have a sex drive or that it isn’t important. Asexuality isn’t the same as “libido-impacting symptoms were ignored”.

      “Get checked out for sexual dysfunction” is only good advice for people with sexual dysfunction, it is insulting and harmful to assume that asexual people are automatically *that*.

      If you can’t see the difference, you are not safe for the asexual community.

      • piny1 said:

        That is a homophobic and disrespectful comparison. They are not the same.

        And again, hi, I myself am commenting as someone whose temporary asexuality literally turned out to signal the presence of a tumor. Like, the masses upon further testing revealed themselves to be my body’s personal craft project, not cancer, but sudden strong fluctuations in sex drive can indeed be the consequence of legitimate medical problems. This condition my doctors told me was part of my erratic woman body’s parameters for normal was in actual fact a good reason to run a bunch of tests to make sure I wasn’t in serious trouble. Absence of sexual desire that feels inherent can similarly be an indication of a lifelong problem.

        And although it is clear that LW wants to continue to be a supportive friend, and true that she should in no way feel pressured to tell her story in a way that she sees as conflicting with that goal, it is not pathologizing asexuality to point out that the absence of sexual desire is sometimes a symptom, and it is not necessarily supportive or compassionate to outright deny that this can be true. Just two ways in which asexuality and medical discourse thereon can’t be easily compared to lesbianism and lesbophobia.

      • piny1 said:

        And just to clarify, there is no easy subjective litmus test for sorting out “libido-impacting symptoms,” and asexuality in the sense of an orientation or an identity. Positing some bright clean line is reductive, not supportive.

      • The Story Girl said:

        Boy, I don’t know how to be more clear about this.

        My sexual dysfunction PRESENTED as happy, healthy asexuality from childhood. I never had a functioning sexual baseline to compare my sexual dysfunction to, so I wrongly assumed that happy asexuality was just healthy “me.”

        I was absolutely certain that my asexuality was my native orientation for my healthy, working body.

        I. WAS. WRONG.

        And given the anecdotal evidence the LW and other commenters have shared, other happy asexuals have ALSO discovered that their asexuality was, in reality, sexual dysfunction in disguise.

        Do you really think the LW, the commenters, and me are the only people on the planet whose bodies functioned this way?

        Or is it possible that some currently asexual-identifying people have similar hormonal imbalances and tumors and chromosomal abnormalities and etc?

        Shouldn’t those people, people who might have HIDDEN conditions, be warned that sometimes – not always, but a critical *sometimes* – the feeling of aceness actually **IS** sexual dysfunction?

        • Anononanonanon said:

          I think you should try to separate your MEDICAL CONDITION that was a real thing you needed to get fixed, from everyone else’s asexuality.

          You are literally saying ace people should get medically checked, and fixed. You are saying that.
          You could talk about screening for tumours regularly or making chromosomal tests more broadly available, but you’re not saying that. You’re saying asexuality should be treated like a disease symptom and that. is not. OK.

          Repeat your lines about “just warning people” all you like, it’s still gross and harmful.

          • piny1 said:

            I think you should listen to what The Story Girl is saying about her “MEDICAL CONDITION” – namely that it was indistinguishable from whatever you see as “true” asexuality, not only to her but to her peers and care providers and available identity framework – and stop trying to posit a clear division that doesn’t really exist. That is not supportive of ace people. It’s reductive and unrealistic.

            She is not saying that asexuality is a medical condition that should be treated. She is saying that there are medical conditions that cannot be easily sorted out from asexuality, and she really is not saying anything effectively different from whatever standard of care you envision to the effect of, “Perhaps we should just have a general understanding that sometimes one’s hormones are wonky, so talk to your physician, kids!” There really is no way to acknowledge the reality that lack of desire can be a symptom without acknowledging the consequent reality that some people who experience lack of desire are experiencing a symptom. It is not sensible to insist that lack of sexual interest not be treated as a relevant data point for a whole bunch of medical issues, or to recommend that patients and care providers have some general routine inquiry into blood levels or whatever. It is also really not compassionate to prioritize labs and lumps over subjective reports, particularly in the context of historical and current diagnostic standards that normalize pain and unhappiness among multiple groups of people.

            Also, the LW is not someone who is and always has been simply ace and would like everyone to respect that. The LW wrote in to Captain Awkward because she started out thinking of herself as experiencing “everyone else’s asexuality” and then found out that she had a “MEDICAL CONDITION,” and she wants to know if she has to separate her experience from asexuality the as an identity and experience. I say no. I think she is allowed to negotiate that question for herself. Your logic dictates hell yes, because she had a “MEDICAL CONDITION,” which is separate and distinct from asexuality, let never the twain overlap. Is the LW a fake ace who needs to leave your nice clean identity framework alone, or do you need to do some rethinking here?

          • TheStoryGirl said:

            piny1’s comments here, and particularly the November 22, 2016 12: 42 response, are far more elegant and deeply examined than what I’ve written. I agree with every sentence. (And am a little jealous of the insight and writing craft!)

            Anononanonanon, yes, I’m absolutely saying that any condition that *could* be a disease symptom should indeed be investigated as though it *might* be a disease symptom, until it is proven *not* to be a disease symptom.

            How would your feelings change if I substituted “low (to no) interest in sex” with “unusually low energy?” Would you agree that a person experiencing unusually low energy should be examined by a medical professional before they assign themselves a label?

            Low energy is a thing, too! There could be subtle issues causing low energy, or there could be life-threatening issues, or there could be environmental/medication things, or it could just be a individuals’s statistically unusual but native rhythm. Low energy could be so many things that I don’t think a layperson should make any assumptions until they’ve ruled out physical conditions that low energy might be signalling as a symptom.

            As mentioned by other commenters, the problem with talking in a general way about screening and making tests more broadly available is that it doesn’t serve vulnerable individuals. Most of the medical profession that exists *right now* is pretty disinterested in investigating subjective symptoms like a lack of sexual desire, especially if they’re being reported by women, especially if they’re mild, and especially-especially if they can be minimized or dismissed as mental/emotional issues.

            Ace people who haven’t yet been medically screened should be informed that there’s a statistically unknown chance that they *might* be like me, piny1, and the LW. They also need to know that they’ll have to be rather persistent and firm with their doctor in advocating for investigation and testing. If were writing a script, I might suggest something like, “Hey, Doc, I’ve never experienced sexual desire, and I’m very content with my life. However, I’m concerned that my lack of desire could be a symptom of something else, like a hormonal imbalance or tumor. Can we rule that out together?” Then don’t give up.

            When it comes to health, more information is better than less. It is okay – if not a moral obligation – to say so, and there is nothing gross about that.

          • caraway said:

            Reply actually to TSG, where she wrote “Anononanonanon, yes, I’m absolutely saying that any condition that *could* be a disease symptom should indeed be investigated as though it *might* be a disease symptom, until it is proven *not* to be a disease symptom.”

            This puts it nice and crisply, and this is something I would argue against. Please don’t advise people that they “should” disprove any disease symptom that is realistically possible. Some people *can* do that if they like, but other people make their own judgments on the probabilities.

            And there are a lot of presentations by a person that are far stronger signals of medical condition that presentation as long-standing ace (not sudden drop in libido) is a signal. Not a doctor but I can’t think of a condition where that would commonly be the best signal available from a patient. Can’t we wish that healthcare systems investigated all those other signals better, and leave off the “if you’re ace you should get checked”?

            Quite a lot of people identity as ace. My estimate is that a small % of those will turn out to have a prolactinoma, or other condition that will be critical to diagnose and treat for non-sexuality reasons. My estimate is a somewhat larger % will later say “my body has changed and I’m no longer ace”, or say “knowing what I know now, I would say I wasn’t ace before” — but that of those, most will not regret their previous identification or end up harmed by it. Not undercutting your experience, but my estimate is that it’s not so common. And in the end that most people who identify as ace will not wish they had done something different. The fact of being ace leaves any of those bad outcomes quite unlikely.

            Your estimates of the probabilities and outcomes may be different than mine. Other people’s different too. We all make our best guesses, that’s life-and-death medical decision-making for you. It’s one thing to make an argument to feed in to decision-making “here’s why you should consider this as more probable and/or more serious if it happens.” I appreciate your story, truly, but without dismissing your experience, it isn’t a large shift of how I think the world is. What happened to you does happen. It’s another thing to tell other people they’re supposed to make decisions in a particular way: for the elimination of all reasonable doubt. Not everybody wants to pay the costs to eliminate a particular doubt. (Asking that they change that is not appropriate for a conversation between two adults.)

  44. Minister of Smartassery said:

    Denying the sex drive you’re honestly feeling because you’re afraid of other people would be just as bad or worse than pretending you have a sex drive you don’t have just to keep other people happy. Be your genuine self. You don’t owe it to anyone to be anything less or more than the person you really are. Telling the truth and being honest is never a failure.

    If the people in your community respond negatively, they have their own interests at heart, not yours.

  45. Penprp said:

    I’m aromantic and asexual, and specifically the type that’s sometimes called “Autochorissexual,” IE, I have a sex drive and am interested in sexual things, but I don’t experience sexual attraction and I don’t want to be DOING the sexual things. I’m actually somewhat sex-averse when it comes to real people, but I like reading erotica and certain other things. *Hope that’s not oversharing.* I mention this because asexuality is complicated, and yes, fluid. Your identity is valid, even if it changes. People change, it’s sort of what we do. My experience of my asexuality has changed over the past ten years that I’ve identified as such. I’m still ace, but I wasn’t particularly sex-averse ten years ago. If your friends try and control how you feel and how you identify, they’re being complete jerks. I won’t say your fears aren’t valid, because there are a lot of jerks in the world. But the odds are good that not all of your friends are jerks, and… well, we’re here too. We’re an online community, but there are enough of us aces here, that we can at least be moral support.

  46. sorbus said:

    I keep coming back to these comments like I’m watching a gruesome rhetorical accident. It’s very weird (and to me, as someone who was coerced into sex because that’s something “all guys want to do”, somewhat threatening) seeing people say that, essentially, deciding that you don’t actually want to have sex at all should require the same kind of rigorous physical checkup as deciding that you want to fly a plane.

    To the LW and anyone in their position, identities are imperfect and abstract maps, your own experiences are the territory. Clinging to a specific identity will never be more important than being honest with yourself about your own experiences and desires. If people think that you’re somehow betraying them by having a body that does unpredictable things that are entirely outside your control, they probably weren’t very safe or good people to be involved with in the first place, is my guess.

    • piny1 said:

      There’s a difference between deciding, for whatever reason, that you do not want to have sex and being aware of health issues as a potential explanation for absence of sexual interest. They are a potential explanation for absence of sexual interest. They’re part of the territory. People cannot simultaneously insist that LW can continue to see herself as ace if she wants and also insist that nobody better mix up that regressive occult health issue crap in their asexuality identity framework. Either it’s not disqualifying, or it is relevant. Either honesty and subjective experience are sacrosanct or you’re not allowed to think of your body and its functions using words like “fixed.”

      “I thought I was asexual, but it turns out this other thing was true instead, and I don’t think I was helped by a conceptual framework that didn’t acknowledge it as a concern, and I think this thing that harmed me really ought to get more attention,” is not an acephobic or pathologizing comment, especially in response to an LW who is essentially saying, “I thought I was asexual, but it turns out this other thing was true instead, and I’m not really sure what to do given that my conceptual toolbox doesn’t even acknowledge this as a possibility.”

      • sorbus said:

        I’m not actually saying that I think raising awareness of health issues causing sexual dysfunction is regressive, or that people can’t refer to their body’s functions as “fixed.” I’m saying that there are multiple comments here that read to me like you have to get permission from a doctor before your conscious decision not to have sex (regardless of whether that comes with an asexual identity or not) can be considered valid or worth respecting.

        • TheStoryGirl said:

          “I’m saying that there are multiple comments here that read to me like you have to get permission from a doctor before your conscious decision not to have sex”

          Oh my goodness, no!

          There are as many reasons to decide not to have sex as there are people, and ALL of them are valid and okay! Nobody should have sex they don’t want to have, EVER! I’m sexual now, but there are lots of times I don’t want to have sex, and that’s totally fine!

          I’m only promoting awareness that a lack of desire to have sex at all, with anyone, at any time, might – only MIGHT, not always, but MIGHT – be a symptom of a medical issue that should be investigated.

          If it turns out there are no underlying issues, great! Keep not having sex, for whatever reason!

      • sorbus said:

        I mean, you’re probably actually right though and I’m going to step away and stop playing Debbie Downer and talking about sexual coercion and stuff because that’s getting wayyyyy off topic and is not going to be relevant to the LW or to most people who shared their stories here.

      • Emmers said:

        Also, re: the comment about conversion therapy above: there is an important difference between “see a doctor” and “just have sex, fake it till you make it” bullshit. They’re not remotely of the same degree.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      *raises hand* Am also fairly uncomfortable right now.

      • B. said:

        Yeah, me too. The conversation is getting really heated at some points, I hope the LW doesn’t get turned off or scared away by this. Maybe we could take the finer points to the forums, like the captain requested?

        • TheStoryGirl said:

          I could be misinterpreting, but I believe the Captain suggested going to the forums if there was going to be a discussion about my weight loss surgery and its outcome, as those would be touching on what are forbidden topics here.

          I don’t think that anyone has expressed an interest, though.

  47. Toestands said:

    Stepping away from the conversation about medical issues vs. asexuality, I felt like I was seeing something in the LW’s letter that I haven’t seen addressed yet.

    Backstory: I am asexual, and I used to be hardcore so. Like, sex-repulsed, plus demi-romantic and not particularly interested in relationships. My discovery of my asexuality went hand in hand with falling in love with a girl, and being unable to even imagine wanting to do anything sexual with her. Like, to the point of being dubious about even wanting to kiss her.

    This was some years ago. Now, I am in a relationship with a wonderful woman (who is also ace). And I’m discovering that I am not so hardcore ace as I used to think I was, and in fact I do very much want to kiss my girlfriend, and hold her hand and snuggle and do all kinds of relationship-y things with her. But what I’m also discovering is that I’m scared to do so, because for all that I intellectually conquered my internalized homophobia, it’s taking longer for me to get over it emotionally. Like, I’ll think about wanting to kiss my girlfriend and instantly feel ashamed and predatory, like I’d be taking advantage of her. Even though I know, logically, that it wouldn’t be true.

    Most societies consider sex and sexuality to be at least somewhat shameful and taboo, and I’ll admit that in some ace circles, particularly, this is (perhaps unintentionally) enhanced as people do their best to distance themselves from everything to do with sex. This is understandable, of course, and a welcome relief to those who are sex-repulsed. But when your identity starts moving further towards the allosexual end of the spectrum, it can begin to feel like it’s reinforcing all those beliefs that sex and free expression of sexuality is somehow morally wrong. Especially, I would imagine, for people who’ve grown up in one of the cultures that shames people for liking sex.

    LW, you know yourself best, and if this is way off for you, please feel free to disregard my comment. But if you think that this is part of why you feel so anxious about no longer identifying as ace, please know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sex, when it’s something you want, is a wonderful, beautiful thing! You are not wrong for wanting it, and no one can demand that you be celibate! And if your ace friends can’t accept that, well, time to get better friends. I assure you that you will not be collectively dumped by every single member of every single ace community for no longer identifying as ace. If being a member of ace communities is still something you’re interested in, then I assure you that there will be places (and people) who welcome you, no matter what your sexuality is.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for this perspective!

  48. emmych said:

    From someone who had a pretty “average” sex drive who now sort of identifies as asexual because of medical complications and sexual trauma: you weren’t a fake asexual. You WERE asexual, because that is how you identified at the time. You don’t identify that way anymore. These things are okay. If anyone feels personally hurt by you, individually, having a different sexual identity now, that is their problem. You are not exploring your new sexuality at people, and it people behave like it’s some offense you are doing to them, that’s actually super shitty and not indicative of anything beyond them being a shitty friend.

    I know it can be hard when your identity no longer matches the groups you have held dear, but like… it’s okay. The people worth keeping will love you for more than the fact you are asexual. Just because you have a sex drive now doesn’t mean you can’t be friends!

    The experiences you had in the past were real and valid. The you that is emerging now is real and valid. You don’t overwrite past selves when you change, you just build on top of what was.

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