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“So, you’re like a plant, right?”
Yep, exactly. My name is Katia, my favorite color is aubergine, and I’m secretly a plant because I don’t experience sexual attraction. How did you know?
I found out I was asexual the summer after sophomore year. For years, I had defined myself largely by compulsory heterosexuality. I had rather forced crushes on boys, and certainly didn’t “look at girls the same way boys looked at girls,” as every lesbian YA novel phrases it. As I’d gone to Catholic school for the past ten years, there was no sex ed, and my best friend realized I should know the basics. My friend was a witty, fierce girl who I’d met on our school’s tennis team, who’d grown up self-confident in an artistic mecca that was a local Waldorf school, empowered in ways of sexuality where I was not. She told me what sexual attraction felt like, and slowly it all made sense. I’d never checked anyone out; I hadn’t had romantic dreams about anyone in middle school; I’d gone along with saving myself for marriage. Maybe I wasn’t as straight as I thought I was, and I was strangely okay with that. It felt realer to me than the black-and-white of sexual orientation I’d been introduced to before, the gay or straight dichotomy.
I embraced my new identity, although adults around me replied with some variant of, “are you sure? Well, your orientation can change, you know.” Despite coming out publicly as asexual multiple times, most people older than me assumed I was gay or, most likely, straight. This invalidation of a central part of myself left me confused. To me, it seemed like an easy thing to accept. However, explaining it was surprisingly difficult; most people haven’t heard of anything like the Kinsey scale, and so eventually I learned to keep that information quiet. It became a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of my own making.
As I became more comfortable with my sexual orientation — or, perhaps more aptly, lack thereof — I didn’t intentionally hide it anymore. I don’t mention it often, because when your sexuality is nonexistent, things like sexual attraction don’t come up in most conversations you have. That being said, I don’t feel ashamed of the person I am, unlike times in the past when I’d wished I could just be like everyone else. The people around me might not fully understand, and that’s fine. I don’t need to fit neatly into boxes. Last winter, I performed a slam poem about being asexual in front of more than a hundred people, and my performance ended in resounding applause. My identity is not for anyone else’s comfort or consumption; finally, I’m becoming proud of who I am.
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