Justin’s Ace Odyssey – by Justin at the UK Health Security Agency

Throughout my life, in my deepest thoughts and innermost self I have always had this sense that I was meant to be separate, to live alone. When I entered my teens this became more prominent. My peers in school were obsessed with talking about sex. I found this totally incomprehensible and quite repugnant but tried if I could to avoid it. A time I found particularly difficult to deal with was during the AIDS crisis of the late ‘80s. At this time explicit talk about sex and relationships was everywhere in the media and this fuelled the obsession of my peers in school even more acutely. They started to ask me questions about my own feelings; questions which quite frankly were none of their business. “Why don’t you go out with girls?”. I said I just did not want to. “Are you gay?”. To which I answered that I had no interest in going out with boys either so no I am not gay either. They said it was impossible that I did not feel some kind of attraction or urge and therefore I could not be human. In my 20s, 30s and 40s, there were times when I fell in love with various women from a distance or perhaps rather it was infatuation and think perhaps it would be nice to have a wife or girlfriend. But this was idealistic. At heart I know there was no way I would have wanted any intimate kind of relationship. In the government department I worked in previously there were people who hurled the word ‘Incel’ at me which I found deeply insulting and hurtful. I had unwanted attention from a girl on this department in whom I would have had no interest anyway, even if I was looking for a romantic or intimate relationship and some people told me to go with her as I could not die a virgin. Needless to say I paid no attention to them but it still hurt me very much.

I am 50 years old now and have accepted who I am and am totally comfortable with it. I have many male and female friends but have no desire to be “more than just friends” with any of them. I am very happy that there is a term for what I have come to identify myself as i.e., Asexual. This did not exist even in the recent past. However we now have a community. Public figures like David Jay and Yasmin Benoit have done so much to put us on the map and raise awareness. There is also so much diversity within the ACE community itself so there is room for everybody! At the more ‘local’ level, it is great that we have the ACE network here in the Civil Service for like-minded people to meet up in a non-judgemental space, feeling that we are not the ‘only ones’ and have some fun and fellowship. However there is a lot more work to be done. Asexual and Aromantic people are possibly the least understood community in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Still most diversity monitoring forms for Civil Service vacancies do not even provide ‘Asexual’ as an option when they ask you about your sexual orientation. So this is a road we have only started walking along. But the main thing is we are on it and let’s stay on this journey!